2015 is shaping up to be a bumper year with numerous releases mentioned previously on Blabber’n’Smoke (have a look around, I’m not going to recite them again) looking to settle into the “classic” album status once the dust has settled. Well, here’s another one, a superb collection of soulful country cuts from North Carolina via Nashville musician Sam Lewis. Waiting On You is Lewis’ second album and is the latest chapter in what could be considered a dream come true for this young musician. Apparently he’s yet another of those discovered at an open mic night good luck stories with Nashville producer Matt Urmey spotting his potential a few years back and hooking him up for his first release. Talent will out and if the quality of the backing musicians here is any gauge then Lewis has it in spades.
The album is excellent from start to finish. Lewis flows from country to folk to Southern soul with ease, his voice is a warm honeyed balm, at times recalling the ease of Charley Pride then heading into Dylan Nashville Skyline crooning mode. He gathers up antecedents such as Van Morrison, The Band and Dan Penn with Spooner Oldham and pours them into the songs. His regular band, JT Cure on bass and Derek Mixon, drums are joined by luminaries Darrell Scott, Mickey Raphael, Will Kimbrough and The McCrary Sisters although these are merely the icing on the cake – Lewis and his songs are the stars here.
There are 12 songs and each one is special. There’s the country element, sad and forlorn on Texas which is adorned by Raphael’s signature harmonica sound, down home country blues on Little Time with Kristina Train on backing vocals and dusty honky tonk on I’m Coming Home. 3/4 Time is a jaunty quickstep that funnels Sturgill Simpson into Van Morrison Tupelo Honey territory with some Sun Records action thrown in. Hard to believe perhaps but when the cork was popped on the song these were the aromas that wafted out. Time here to mention the production (by Lewis and Oliver Wood) as the drums and bass are so crisp and there’s a fine snap to the backing vocals, overall the album just sounds great, warm and comfortable.
Lewis dips his toes into soul waters with Waiting On You which actually recalls James Taylor initially before Gabe Dixon’s Wurlitzer piano wades in and The McCrary Sisters envelop the song in a Gospel veil. The McCrary’s feature again on the sublime country soul of Love Me Again which flows wonderfully with a similarity to Dylan’s Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You and on the slow burn of Talk To Me while She’s A Friend drives straight to the heart of Muscle Shoals territory with some Stax thrown in for good measure. There’s some bare boned folk blues on Virginia Avenue which has Lewis backed by the nifty resonator guitar picking of Welsh wizard Martin Harley and to top it all there’s a roustabout rock’n’roll jaunt on Things Will Never Be The Same with Garth Hudson rinky dink organ swirlings from Dixon and killer guitar from producer Wood.