Sam Morrow “On the Ride Here”

Copaco / Blues Elan, 2024

Roots rock, with more funk than you could hope for, the new album by Sam Morrow is a worthy successor to Lowell George’s Little Feat.

“My favourite rock & roll is the stuff that has groove to it,” says Sam Morrow. “I want to make music like that — funky, layered rock where it’s not just the songwriting that’s important, but the presentation, too.”

If the start of ‘By Your Side’ is anything to go by, mission accomplished in the first minute of the album. A simple stinging guitar riff with the distinctive sound of a Wurlitzer Electric Piano snapping against it and his Texas drawl gets your head nodding along, and the office chair shuffle started. Adding the layers he wants, Hammond, tambourine, and a guitar solo that leaves you hoping for more, in the manner of all the best solos, makes this one the best track one, sides one’s for a long while.

He sensibly changes it up for a Stones style mid-tempo blues on ‘Medicine Man.’ Slide guitar starts to hint at one of his key influences. ‘Searching for Paradise’ confirms it as Little Feat. Unbelievably funky with organ, drums and Lowell George style slide fills make this worthy to stand with anything on ‘Feats Don’t Fail Me Now.’ The poppier ‘Straight and Narrow’ brings back the Wurlitzer and a simpler arrangement, but that lets you listen to his fine bluesy voice, which is familiar sounding, but without really coming across like anyone else.

With most songs hovering at around the three-and-a-half-minute mark, Morrow brings back the less is more ethic in many ways. Straightforward song writing, arrangements that hint at his influences without copying them. He doesn’t allow the songs to outgrow their ambition. Even the hard blues rocker ‘More’ gets out of your way under four minutes. Bass player Ted Russell Kamp, himself well reviewed here at AUK in the past, plays a key role in holding down the funk across the album, but especially on the almost Sly Stone stylings of ‘Thunderbird Motel.’ The extreme fuzz guitar ‘Tighter’ stats with a ZZ Top riff but moves rapidly into a slower piano-powered soil/blues. And the little instrumental touches keep coming. The Clavinet on ‘On My Way,’ tremolo guitar on ‘High Class Woman.’

St. Peter’ winds up the album with its longest song and another tune that could have come from the Stones songbook circa 1973. The distorted electric piano solo and laid-back groove of this tune leave us back where we started, dancing. It’s also got one of the best set of lyrics here. He says of his approach to songwriting: “I’m taking my own flaws, and flaws we have socially, and poking fun of them a bit. I’ve been known to have songs that are really serious and grim, but that’s not exactly who I am.”

It’s unclear who wrote the about section of his Bandcamp page, but they hit the nail firmly on the head. “Sam Morrow has carved out a sound that exists somewhere outside of genre and geography. It’s his own version of modern-day American roots music: a mix of roadhouse rock & roll, bluesy R&B, and country-fried funky-tonk, driven forward by groove, grease, and guitars.” What a brilliant album – play it now.

8/10
8/10

About Tim Martin 247 Articles
Sat in my shed listening to music, and writing about some of it. Occasionally allowed out to attend gigs.
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