March 13 2012
by Grant Britt
He’s got the soul of Al Green, rooted in Nashville, with a sprinkle of Eric Lindell’s Big Easy drawl on top. Sam Lewis’ debut is a stunner. “I’ve got a heart full of love that scares me/I got a soul full of sin so beware of me,” Lewis cautions on “The Cross I Bear.” He’s not kidding-there’s so much soul pouring out of this guy’s pores you could bathe in it. It’s like hearing Al Green for the first time. Lewis’s vocals and delivery impressed the band assembled for the occasion, headed by 11 year Marty Stuart vet Kenny Vaughn, lead guitarist in Stuart’s Band Of Superlatives and a seasoned session musician. Vaughan’s guitar work here sounds like tracks from a lost Eddie Hinton session, dripping with Muscle Shoals churchy soul.
Lewis blends gospel, soul and country for a seamless sound that’s been missing in all those genres for a long time.
“I’m a River” has vocal echoes of a country cousin version of John Prine, backed by ethereal background vocals courtesy of Jonell Mosser, featured in the movie Hope Floats doing the Supremes classic “Stop In the Name of Love.”
But this is Lewis’ show, and his phrasing and buttery soul-drenched vocals soar effortlessly over his accompanists without overshadowing them. “Bluesday Night” is bloozy country soul- Eddie Hinton territory, but Lewis is no trespasser- he’s at home here.
And even though Lewis sounds nothing like Hinton, or Percy Sledge, who plowed this same field, that country boy with soul feel is the same. It may come from Nashville, but it’s got nothing in common with anything else that place puts out these days.
This one stands up to repeated listening, cut after cut, time after time. It’s time to pay attention to Sam Lewis. He deserves it, and so do you.