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Sam Outlaw is one of the exciting new names on the Americana county scene, a young man who is not only helping bring in a new younger audience but also gaining acceptance from those into traditional country music. He is a rare talent, a real stylist.
Supported by Molly Jenson (harmony vocals), Darla Hawn (drums), Jeremy Long (pedal steel guitar, organ) Daniel Rhine (upright, electric bass), Bo Koster (wurlitzer, Rhodes, piano), Danny Garcia (most of the ‘mellow’ electric guitar) and Brad Lindsay (most of the ‘rock’ electric guitar) plus a guest or two.
What struck me is how he eases into a song, and in little or no time has the listener tucked in alongside him. Walking the same stride and soaking in all of the nuances and deft twists he likes to introduce. Like how he utilises pedal steel on “Look At You Now”. It isn’t flashy or over bearing, just sufficient deft touches to add flavour. In all honesty on listening to the first two or three tracks I wasn’t sure whether Outlaw wasn’t going to be flash in the pan. It was only then I recalled it took me a few plays to become accustomed and avid fan of his previous album, Angeleno (2015), also the second half on the album is superior to the first!
Jaunty ode “Dry In The Sun” offers a feel good ambiance. A song set to have you throw off your worries and enjoy the moment. In turn it is followed by the warm swagger of light ’n’ breezy pop country ode “Now She Tells Me”(nice steel guitar). When it comes to heart-tugging ballads “Diamond Ring” hits home, and hard, as he pulls the listener like a fisherman his catch ever closer to him. Wistful, graceful and hypnotic “Bougainvillea, I Think” has him speak of a lady from long ago from the borders. As for the title-track, “Tenderheart” is ok, but it does not stop me in my tracks. Certainly not of the same mould or owner the same dynamics as the hooky “Trouble”. Here is a crowd-pleaser it there ever was one. More mainstream than gritty singer-songwriter fare but the thing about Sam Outlaw his music crosses boundaries without the need to stop at checkpoints to have his credentials looked over. “She’s Playing Hard To Get (Rid Of)” has effective organ, and pedal steel guitar plus harmony vocals help guide him. This as he works on ditching a former love and it isn’t the most happy situation. But, hey you do have two happy people on “Two Broken Hearts” (that go missing as the two of them get together). Needless to say it contains some fine pedal steel. The most appealing song on the album could well be the terrific “All My Life”. More like it would most certainly have helped make the album match up to his debut record, if not better it! Love the work of Long on his usual pedal steel, and electric guitar, and with Outlaw letting his imagination go wild, lyrically, he hits the jackpot! Don't be shocked it you still have this album among you favourite listens five years from now.
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