Show Review: Sam Lewis at 3rd & Lindsley Was Laid Back and Funky

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I love 3rd & Lindsley. Located at the end of an industrial strip center south of Broadway in downtown Nashville, it has been a vital part of the Nashville music scene since opening its doors over 27 years ago. They expanded a few years back and the renovated space continues to champion artists old and new, famous and unheard of, talented and really talented alike. On this particular Friday night, I found myself on hand to see Sam Lewis take the stage celebrating the release of his third album Loversity (Loversity Records/Southern Ground Studios).

Before Lewis took the stage, the audience was treated to the multi-talented Katie Pruitt and her top-notch band. I had seen the Nashville based artist’s name on the Fall 2017 Pilgrimage Festival lineup. Unfortunately for me, I did not have a chance to catch her then. To put it bluntly: she is a force to be reckoned with. Compelling songs, great musicianship and a voice that commands your attention were on full display during her opening set. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed an opening act this much.

When it was time for Sam Lewis to have his moment in the spotlight, he did not waste a second of the audience’s time. I had previously seen Lewis open for Chris Stapleton at the Ryman. He put on a great show and I especially liked his cover of Willie Nelson’s “Time of the Preacher” so I thought I knew what I was in for. I was wrong. This was Lewis’s show. This was Lewis’s crowd. This was Lewis’s new album. He let you know it from the opening chords of “When Come the Morning,” the Loversity lead track. Propelled along by masterful guitar work (kept thinking about Joe Walsh’s “Life’s Been Good to Me So Far”) and a classic organ sound, the gauntlet was thrown down early.

Lewis has an easy-going style, but he roughed up the edges during this performance. The laidback swagger was still present; however, the songs were more muscular and funky. Moving into another new song, “Natural Disaster,” Lewis started out with that happy easy-going flow. Then Dan Cohen took over on guitar and things got interesting with the song ending on crashing drums and thundering bass. The ride worked masterfully and had the audience ready to jump in line for the next thrill.

The horn section of Jim Hoke and Scotty Huff played out and kept the party going with an excellent Johnny Cash cover of “I Still Miss Someone.” Well-known and respected, the duo brought a spark to an already hot evening. They would pop in and out as the night progressed, each time taking the songs to wonderful places. How do you follow a mournful rendition of a great Cash song? Well, they did it with a funky upbeat, hippy feel good number called “Do It.” The interplay of the horns and guitar had the crowd digging the vibe and definitely hooked.

The band is fantastic. The keyboardist, Matt Coker who played on the record, adds a nice flourish throughout the show. Coker shines during “The Only One” with his back and forth with guitarist Dan Cohen. It is another slower song that explodes towards the end with each musician showing off their talents. One of my favorite moments of the evening.

Taking a moment after the incendiary close to the previous song, Lewis commented on how two of his heroes, Leonard Cohen and Leon Russell, gave him the courage to write the songs he does. This segued into yet another stand-out track from the new album, “(Some Fall Hard) Living Easy.” It’s a cautionary tale reminding the listener and artist alike to take stock of what’s around you and your place in it.

So far every song of the night, outside of the Cash cover, had been from Loversity, but at this point Lewis took a quick diversion. He went back to his last album with “Waiting for You“ and “¾ Time.”’ He thanked local Nashville station, Lightning 100, for playing the hell out of “¾ time” which I am sure they loved. His performance was on point and energetic, instilling the song with an urgency that was unexpected.

Now twelve songs in, Lewis continued to keep the audience on their toes and his foot on the gas. You could sense the show was coming to a close with “Little Too Much.” It opened with some slow, tasty slide guitar and is a little Dylanesque. Gradually the music built as a swirling cacophony of sound moving the song forward at a steady pace before it ascended its peak. To call it “bad ass” would not do it justice. And with this Lewis ended the show and walked off stage. I noticed the stunned look on several faces amidst the clapping and hollering for more. A few minutes later Lewis re-appeared, guitar in hand. He told the eager audience that the encore is unplanned, as they had played all the songs they came to play. He mentioned that Willie Nelson was playing across town and then started playing “Hands on the Wheel” from Willie’s Red Headed Stranger album. I just stood there with a stupid smile on my face.

Lewis brought his “A game,” giving the audience eighteen finely crafted songs played by a stand-out band. This is his moment and he further cemented his reputation as one of Nashville’s finest. I predict the name “Sam Lewis” will be on many people’s lips by year end.  Check him out, here. Check out 3rd and Lindsley’s calendar, here.

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