After serving up a critically-acclaimed debut album produced by Ry Cooder, Southern California cowboy Sam Outlaw takes a surprise musical turn on his follow-up.
With a name like Sam Outlaw, one expects country music done up in a style that recalls Merle, Willie and Waylon. And that’s pretty much what Sam supplied on 2015’s Angeleno.
But two years later things have changed and Sam sounds less an outlaw and more a down home folksy crooner.
I must admits that my first inclination after listening to Tenderheart was to write this off as soppy Southern California country/folk, along the lines of Dan Fogelberg or early Loggins & Messina…Tom Petty- lite at best.
But on repeated listens it became apparent that Sam Outlaw is a mighty fine songwriter in the traditional country way. In other words, he is a consummate storyteller.
Most of those stories take place in bars and involve whisky, women and sly looks across the room. But then Sam takes the stories further.
Trouble details the singer’s encounter with a barroom temptress, while She’s Playing Hard To Get (Rid Of) is a grand old country weeper based around a dysfunctional relationship in which the singer just can’t seem to extract his way out.
Then there’s the breezy Now She Tells Me, where his significant other threatens that she’ll “break your spirit, I’ll steal your soul, but I’ll never leave your side”. Yikes!
Outlaw’s vocals are supported by the harmonies of Molly Jensen and the pedal steel of Jeremy Long with flourishes from Bo Koster’s organ.
Yes, once you get past Outlaw’s Southern California chilled style, you will find real substance in his songs.