Sarah Sample: Someday, Someday

RIYL: Patty Griffin, Shawn Colvin, Ray LaMontagne

Sarah Sample rises above the typical “Grey’s Anatomy” genre of female singer/songwriting-heart-on-my-sleeve-because-the-whole-world-hurts music with her distinct voice and country-tinged songwriting. It’s the kind of voice that gets under your skin and can lift you up. Her voice can also lift up the material she’s singing, as it does on her album, Someday, Someday.

This album of adult alternative music is full of intimate songs about love and relationships. The lyrics are straightforward and effective, coupled with Sample’s gift for beautiful melodies. Upon first listen, you’ll be immediately taken by Sample’s upbeat delivery, even on the gentle ballads she’s written. Someday, Someday grows on you after repeated listens and soon you’ll find yourself with songs like “I’m Ready,” “One Mistake,” and the soulful rocker “Staying Behind” stuck in your head for days on end. You’ll also feel your heartstrings being tugged.

Sample’s voice can really stir up the emotions, making her much better than so many of her contemporaries. Since radio is dead and TV and film soundtracks are where new artists get most of their exposure, let’s hope some music supervisor comes across this fine album and helps Sample get the exposure she deserves. Until then, it’s up to word of mouth to spread the word about an artist like her. We’ve done our part; now it’s up to you. (Groundloop Records 2010)

Sarah Sample’s website

Purchase Someday, Someday through Amazon


Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs: God Willin’ and the Creek Don’t Rise

RIYL: James Morrison, Ryan Adams, Iron & Wine

51ENPcsTtLL._SCLZZZZZZZ_[1]When Ray LaMontagne burst onto the scene with Trouble in 2004, it was easy to assume that the album’s slight glossy sheen was the work of producer Ethan Johns, and look forward to a time when LaMontagne had enough clout to put together a collection with the sort of grit that would support and highlight the soulful folk of his unapologetically retro songwriting. Three albums later, LaMontagne has stepped out on his own — but the result, the teasingly down-home titled God Willin’ & the Creek Don’t Rise, is the most mannered and frictionless of his young career.

It didn’t have to be this way. LaMontagne convened a band, christened the Pariah Dogs, for the sessions, helmed by LaMontagne from the comfort of his own studio, and recorded everything live; frustratingly, it’s the songs themselves that lack the essential heat of his primary influences. Where LaMontagne evoked the bucolic soul of Van Morrison’s early ’70s recordings on his debut, he’s steadily retreated to a Laurel Canyon somnolence over time, and God Willin’ finds him mostly willing to simply lay back, unspool his tuneful rasp, and let the pedal steels do all the work.

The lone exception is the opening track, “Repo Man,” which hints at the sort of back porch funk LaMontagne has always seemed to have in him. But from the second track, the lovely “New York City’s Killin’ Me,” through the harmonica-laced closing track, “Devil’s in the Jukebox,” the rest of God Willin’ is curiously flat; it ambles sheepishly, hands in pockets, from plaintive ballad to lukewarm mid-tempo number and back again.

The end result is an album that certainly isn’t bad, but it’s undeniably frustrating. At his best, LaMontagne has always suggested the modern fruition of the seeds sown by rock’s earliest soul explorers; here, he sounds like nothing so much as a pleasant afternoon nap. And like a nap, listening to God Willin’ has its pleasures, but you’re liable to come out of it feeling groggy and a little ashamed that you weren’t doing something more productive with your time. Hopefully, LaMontagne will catch a twinge of that guilt too. (RCA 2010)

Ray LaMontagne MySpace page


Bullz-Eye’s Favorite Albums of 2008: Staff Writer Mike Farley’s picks

Every year I wonder what my new favorite albums are going to be, and if the artists I follow will be able to live up to the lofty expectations I have for them (see Nada Surf below). I also wonder what artists will come into my life that weren’t there before (see most of list below, especially Gabe Dixon and Paddy Casey). Well, 2008 turned out to be pretty awesome music-wise, and while my list won’t match that of most critics, I made this list up based on my own taste, and I’m proud of it. And as you can see, I think some of the artists are proud as well…

Top 10 Albums of 2008

1. Gabe Dixon Band: Gabe Dixon Band
You know when you hear an album for the first time and you get that rush of excitement, kind of like the teenage crushes we all remember? Gabe Dixon Band’s debut on Fantasy Records is more than that. It’s like the cute brunette with glasses who you find out is also smart and watches football in her sweatpants on Sunday. Maybe that’s a weird analogy, but Dixon’s music is not only ridiculously addictive pop music – it also has a depth to which you hear something new every time you listen. And the songs? Well, this Nashville cat is right at home in Music City, but with these timeless tracks, he’s being mentioned in the same breath with the likes of Elton John and Jackson Browne as an artist. And that’s not something anyone should take lightly. “Five More Hours” is my favorite track of 2008.

Gabe Dixon accepts his award: “I am thrilled and honored to be included in Bullz-Eye’s top albums of 2008. The band and I put a lot of heart and soul into this recording, so it is gratifying to be named number one on the list! Thanks Bullz-Eye!!”

2. Paddy Casey: Addicted to Company
Okay, so I’m a sucker for ‘70s-style pop. Imagine Josh Rouse with an Irish accent, and you’ve got Paddy Casey’s latest. The melodies, vocal lines, arrangements and production make this sound like a summer day in 1974.

Paddy Casey accepts his award: “Very nice of you to choose my album, thank you…now if we could just convince the rest of the world!”

3. Nada Surf: Lucky
How does Nada Surf follow up their best album yet, The Weight Is a Gift? With Lucky, which sounds more like a continuation than a follow up. And that’s good news for us fans.

4. The New Frontiers: Mending
The New Frontiers may be the new Snow Patrol, Keane, or even Coldplay – dreamy alt-pop drenched in pretty harmonies. Okay, honestly, it’s a better album than the new efforts from the other three bands just mentioned.

5. Low vs. Diamond: Low vs. Diamond
Here is one of those American bands that sounds British. Not that there is anything wrong with that, because if you’re into the likes of the Killers or the Darkness, Low vs. Diamond is like an American version of those groups, with great songs to boot.

6. Snow Patrol: One Hundred Million Suns
Like Nada Surf, Snow Patrol had a lot to live up to after the huge success of Eyes Open in 2006. Thankfully, they have delivered yet again, with a set of anthems, driving alternative rock, and dark, moody ballads all wrapped together.

7. Kings of Leon: Only by the Night
I know that some true fans of Kings of Leon were disappointed with this latest effort, and to be honest I was never a huge fan to begin with. But there is something about Only by the Night that is absolutely intoxicating. The band’s psychedelic flavored, guitar-driven rock sound reminds me of going to concerts as a teenager in huge, pot smoke-filled arenas.

8. Benjamin Taylor: The Legend of Kung Folk Part 1
If James Taylor and Carly Simon had a kid, he would sound like this. Oh wait…..Seriously though, if Benjamin came around 20 or 30 years ago, he would be way more of a household name than he is today.

Benjamin Taylor accepts his award: “Well would you look at that: ol’ Breezy in the top 10… Top of the world, Ma. I’m off to Disneyland.”

9. Sarah Bettens: Shine
Former K’s Choice singer Sarah Bettens has lightened up a bit in her solo career, the music being more mainstream and mature, and not as dark as K’s fare. “Shine” is one of the year’s simplest, prettiest songs.

Sarah Bettens accepts her award: “I love being on a top 10 list! Especially when it doesn’t say ‘worst possible artist and most poorly dressed person in the whole wide world’. Thank you, Bullz-Eye. I feel honored being chosen among such talented people.”

10. Augustana: Can’t Love, Can’t Hurt
This kind of melodic, AAA-radio stuff never gets the critical props it deserves. Well, here are some props, Augustana.

Honorable Mentions

Amos Lee: Last Days at the Lodge
Jason Reeves: The Magnificent Adventures of Heartache
Jon McLaughlin: OK Now
Ray LaMontagne: Gossip in the Grain
WAZ: Sweet Bye and Bye
Coldplay: Viva La Vida
Uh Huh Her: Common Reaction
Val Emmich: Little Daggers

Album Released in 2007 That I Reviewed in 2008 and Would Have Ranked in Top Three

Jason Spooner: The Flame You Follow

Jason Spooner Reacts: “I’m thrilled to have been cited on Mike’s Best of list. He clearly works with a wide variety of quality artists & labels and it’s always a great feeling when your record is plucked out of the crowd.”