Had it not been for The Felice Brothers headlining the Rhythm n’ Blooms festival in Knoxville, Tennessee back in 2014 , I would never have found my way to the indie-Americana goodness that is Sam Quinn. He has popped up in various guises at the festival over the years, most recently as bass guitarist, singer and songwriter for The Black Lillies, but also with bands such as King Super and the Excellents, Glass Magnet, and Sam Quinn and The Taiwan Twin. One of life’s retrospective regrets was realising I’d missed a reunion set for his band the everybodyfields at the festival in 2013.
the everybodyfields (and yes, it kills me every time I have to type this all lower case) really pins Sam Quinn to the Americana map. Co-founded with Jill Andrews (now operating as a solo artist) in 1999, the everybodyfields brought together indie-folk, bluegrass and deliciously evocative lyrics and vocals from Quinn and Andrews. Quinn particularly has a delivery that is both sweet and anguished in equal parts.
It was during his time with the band that Quinn won The Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at MerleFest in 2005 for the song ‘T.V.A’.
The album ‘Nothing is Okay’ signified the end of the band, and songs like ‘Lonely Anywhere’ with the lyrics “You’re looking through me, with a blank stare, and I can’t help but ask if today would be my last, would you care?” really summed up how painful it all was.
The next big opportunity for Quinn was joining the tour for The Black Lillies’ 2015 album ‘Hard to Please’ on bass guitar. Very quickly established as a core member of the band, he stepped up to provide harmonies and lead on a number of tracks.
Their 2018 crowd-funded album ‘Stranger to Me’ was Quinn’s real chance to shine. It’s here that he wrote, arranged and sings lead on a number of tracks (notably ‘Weighting’ and ‘Snakes and Telephones’). His style is much more indie folk rock than a lot of the Lillies’ previous work. His delivery and lyrics are transfixing, a voice that is melodic, yet at times strained, he delivers heartbreaking lines like they are conversation: “forgetting is something I do all the time” and the skin-crawling “a porcelain doll made of human skin, scares the living shit out of me”.
The canon: First a caveat: Sam Quinn is such a social media enigma it’s very difficult to pin down a complete discography, so apologies if any albums are missing.
Halfway There: Electricity and the South, Plague of Dreams and Nothing is Okay – the everybodyfields
The Fake that Sunk a Thousand Ships – Sam Quinn
To the Feet of Gods – Sam Quinn and Japan Ten
Stranger to Me – The Black Lillies
Key Release/s: For the everybodyfields the break up album ‘Nothing is Okay’ is as good as it gets – that’s if you want to be heartbroken too?
The Black Lillies offers something more upbeat but equally complex in ‘Stranger to Me’ and Quinn really showcases his songwriting here.