Sam Robbins – Finally Feeling Young
One look at the young Nashville-based Sam Robbins (acoustic/electric guitars/ukulele) on the plain designed cover of his fine CD Finally Feeling Young (Drops May 14– Nine Athens Music) prompts me to pre-judge: this is another breathy, angst ridden young male pouty cliché-ridden ballad collection of valium induced tunes. But no…no…
This guy has great tone, superb songs, sings with authority & with an assured vocal style. He mixes it up beautifully on a retro-sounding “Nobody’s Baby” with a voice that could succeed in country. These are well-written emotional stories, not melodramas. Robbins is only 24 but while he’s young that’s the age where some of the best songwriters emerged: Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Nick Drake, were all about 24 when their finest songs were written. My only criticism: he deserves better graphics on his CD packaging.
This 11-song set is a journey into adulthood written over a 2-year period. The “old soul” standard of songwriting that has Robbins cut from the same cloth as Paul Simon (not as melodic yet), James Taylor (the early Taylor) & Jackson Browne (not as wordy). Sam follows in their path but not in their footsteps.
Recorded between Boston & Nashville my only concern is that if you like singer-songwriters from the 70s don’t rely on successful ones. Lesser-known artists with more edge should be explored. A Michael Dinner (“Tom Thumb the Dreamer” & “The Great Pretender”), Clifford T Ward, Chris Rea, John Martyn, Nick Drake, David McWilliams, Tim Hardin, Townes van Zandt etc.
What I agree with is Sam’s quote: “My artistry is something that I think listeners want but are missing today.” He’s right. Songs like “Addicted,” if listened to carefully, is clever, poignant & incisive. The way Sam sings it radiates as he narrates. Very John Martyn-inspired with finger-picking guitar silent in the background with Sam accentuating perfectly the important words.
This would’ve impressed the late Mr. Martyn. This is where Sam Robbins should be. We need another John Martyn with a contemporary bent. Sam has the voice & intriguing stories. Martyn sang of having lived a hard life; Sam’s is just starting.
There isn’t a tune here that is weak. They’re all woven with strong notes & arrangements. “Saying Amen,” has Robbins touching that special place Leonard Cohen went. This is brilliance. It isn’t so much a religious song as an introspective one.
“New,” is an exceptional song played slow on piano somberly in a Billy Joel-Elton John ballad style. Performed admirably. Robbins has good instinct. “Finally Feeling Young,” is articulate, well-composed tune. He writes of subject’s other songwriters don’t explore.
The band: Cole Szilagyi (guitar), Julie Papili & Victor Pacek (bass), Neil Jones (pedal steel), Max Chester (piano), Maxfield Anderson (mandolin), & Alex Stradal (cello). The 38-minute CD was produced by Alex Fansel (drums/synths/keys).
Available @ https://samrobbinsmusic.com/home