It can be the case that, when you get asked to review a new album, it’s a little like pulling teeth; you start to feel quite resentful that, rather than playing one of the thousands of tracks that you really like, you’re diligently giving some mediocre cuts your undivided attention; it feels like a chore. It may not be the artist’s fault of course. We all have different tastes and some people like mediocre music (only kidding) – it’s horses for courses! It’s a great relief, therefore, to happily inform that the new album from Toronto’s singer/songwriter/bandleader Samantha Martin (who I know absolutely nothing about) is a real firecracker!
PR hyperbole normally has it that every release from anybody is an indicator of the second coming of Dylan, Hendrix, Tiny Tim, etc, whomever fits into the genre. In this case, the description of the album as powerful, funky, and deeply soulful is right on the money. With the emphasis on soulful in the sense of a modern incarnation of the sort of band that if you had a time machine you might have enjoyed seeing as part of a Stax touring revue in the 60s.
This cracking set of songs immediately makes an impression and in the case of this particular reviewer brought on a severe case of dad dancing (happily for everyone, well away from any prying eyes) as the opening cut “Love is all Around” burst out of the speakers.
The band has used the enforced layoff due to you know what to record an album that you just know is meant to be heard at full blast in a live venue. The combination of the bandleader’s really powerful and distinctive vocals and the totally superb horn arrangements (they are exceptional and whoever is responsible for the charts for these is right up there with the best of them), not forgetting the Booker T’esque organ playing that underlays everything alongside a super tight rhythm section.
The guitar player doesn’t get much of a look in until track 10, “Better to Have Never”, when he is allowed a Steve Cropper style tasteful solo; otherwise it’s clipped chords and restrained playing to help drive these modern soulful gems into your consciousness. It’s hard to single out individual tracks, although track 2, “Don’t Have To Be”, which was selected as a single (although odds are a million to one against these days that you can actually buy a single CD by someone like Samantha Martin in any of the few remaining music emporiums, thanks to the music industry having managed to shoot itself in the foot long before Covid came along) half leads you to expect from the intro that Wilson Pickett is going to be singing lead (which would be a good trick). The last track in particular is one of those perfectly proportioned recordings where the timbre of the voice and the balance between the vocals and the backing makes you want to metaphorically pick up the needle and lower it down on the start as soon as it’s finished. The singer wrote or co-wrote all the songs on the album apart from a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Meet Me In the Morning” (from Blood On The Tracks), which, needless to say, is given quite a makeover. So, she’s not just a pretty set of tonsils.
To refer back to the opening comments, this collection is one that is worthy to file alongside your favourite albums – pure toe-tapping musical joy in 12 slices.
Bluesdoodles rating:– Stupendous– Will bring added ENJOYMENT to your collection
1. Love Is All Around – 3:28 (S. Martin, J. Chisholm)
2. Don’t Have to Be – 2:57 (S. Martin, A. Beer, Colacino, A. Warner)
3. Meet Me in the Morning – 3:34 (Bob Dylan)
4. Loving You Is Easy – 4:25 (S. Martin)
5. One Heartbreak – 3:36 (S. Martin, R. Yildizdogan)
6. I’ve Got a Feeling – 5:16 (S. Martin, C. Chaffey)
7. Sacrifice – 2:59 (S. Martin, J. Chisholm)
8. So I Always Know – 3:54 (S. Martin, P. Reddick)
9. Pass Me By – 3:20 (S. Martin, C. Chaffey)
10. Better to Have Never – 4:01 (S. Martin)
11. All That I Am – 2:56 (S. Martin, C. Chaffey)
12. Who Do You – 3:07 (S. Martin, C. Chaffey)