Haunting, with a genuine feel impossible to fake, Sarah Sample strummed her way into my head. Americana and folk to me are among the last places to find songs and singers that not only capture the simple nature of American life, but are still about writing and performing music and connecting to audiences, not about the business of the cookie-cutter music industry.
Sample combines the best of country and folk with an expressive voice that makes you believe every word. She reminds me a bit of Brandi Carlile, who manages simple songs that are complex at the same time. Both offer simplicity with just a few instruments playing at the same time – yet there’s a layered approach, with poetry, rhythm, melody, and harmonies that unlocks the underlying meaning for the audience.
The Salt Lake Weekly called her 2007 debut – Never Close Enough – “the standard of comparison for other female folk singer/songwriters.” She followed that in 2009 with Born to Fly, which also received critical acclaim. Her talent has been recognized since 2006 by the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Cayamo Cruise, Storyhill, SistersFolk, FolksFest, Tucscon Folk Festival, and more. And now with Someday, Someday as her third album I think she’s guaranteed to win more fans and praise from the music community.
“Everytime I Go” has to be one of the most romantic songs I’ve heard for a while about new love. “Everytime I leave / Feel like I am free-falling, real slow / my stomach in the sky, in my heart a battle cry / yes, you have won me over…” From the opening chords strummed on an acoustic guitar to the light piano and harmonies, everything evokes that feeling we all want in a new love affair – the feeling that “nothing could keep my love from you…”
The duet of “Shadows of a Song” tells the story of the other side of that coin – chasing the “shadows” of a love that may have passed. “We tried so hard / to play all the right parts / our hands full of false starts / til the downbeat dragged us apart…” Love in a band, like any relationship where you love and work together, has to be tough. But the emotional toll of connecting to music night after night has to wear it frightfully thin. Though I usually don’t like steel guitar, it works here – drawing out each drumbeat and guitar strum mimicking the daily trudging through a relationship that just doesn’t work any more.
And “One Mistake” tells more of the story of two lovers drifting apart. “I felt you / I felt you pull away / … I saw it / I saw your eyes stray / one false move / and I cut the tie / and you are floating away…” The backing vocals again bring in some gorgeously textured harmonies along with the string bass. But it’s the lightness of the arrangement to me that suggests that the singer is ready to let go until you get to the end… “cause I’m never gonna let you go.” It’s the push and pull that tests each relationship from time to time somehow boiled down into a song.
But don’t think for a second that they’re all depressing songs. “Staying Behind” takes things in a rock direction – cutting loose for a time. “I’m done trading time for nothing / I want to stand alone…” Upbeat, you can feel the change coming. With the bit of banjo and drums picking and beating us forward to a new phase of life, the vocals layer and you know it’s going to be ok.