It didn’t start well. We heard the crash somewhere backstage and when Sam came onstage to find that his DI wasn’t working he confessed that he’d dropped his guitar. A few minutes fiddling got it going, fortunately for all concerned. Sam made a big joke of it and started again, with the audience firmly on his side before he’d even sung a note.
He began, as always, with ‘Yellow Sign’ from his first album. It’s a deceptively simple song that tells a complex story in just a few verses and tunes the listener in to Sam’s songwriting style; at once involved and yet simultaneously an observer. Now he introduced the trio: bassist Matt Ridley and drummer Evan Jenkins for two more old songs, ‘Dreams Are Made Of Money’ and ‘Taxi’. They were quite restrained at this point, cool and jazzy.
Sam went solo again to introduce the first of the songs from his new album, How The City Sings, beginning with the title track and ‘Our Kind Of Harmony’ before changing tack with a song from False Lights – ‘The Wife Of Usher’s Well’. Back came the band for a rockabilly version of ‘One Last Clue’ and as the end of the first set approached Sam announced that they were going to play some “Judas music”. Which meant that Evan picked up the big drumsticks and Sam his electric guitar (a 1960’s Gibson ES125 for guitar nerds) and gave ‘Oh Dear, Rue The Day’ an experience it can rarely have had.
Sam’s sets are always varied and can leave the audience wrong-footed as he does something unexpected. Tonight was going to be rock’n’roll night as the second set opened with ‘Dark Days’ and ‘The One’. Then, quite unexpectedly, he switched to a solo song from Sweet Liberties which may be called ‘One More River’ – Sam wasn’t specific. It relates to a several-times-great aunt who married an escaped slave in the early 19th century, which must have been quite scandalous even in Leicester. Sam constructed the song in the traditional style of a shape-note spiritual and it was quite wonderful, perhaps the highlight of the set.
The band returned, Judas took over again and brought my one reservation. ‘We Never Made It To The Lakes’ is a great song but it should be poignant and wistful. Sam insists on rocking it up and I really wish he wouldn’t. They wrapped up with ‘Taunting The Dog’ and ‘Drop The Bomb’ in rocking style and encored with ‘Waves & Tremors’
Variety is the key to Sam’s performances. He can pick out delicate acoustic lines or a screaming electric solo; sing the most tender of lyrics or roister through ‘Jack Hall’ and he does it all in one evening. The tour continues – don’t miss it.
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Artist’s website: http://samcartermusic.co.uk/
Venue website: https://hampshireculturaltrust.org.uk
‘Dreams Are Made Of Money’ – official video: