Sam Moss – Blues Approved
I usually listen to work prior to learning about the artist. To keep from being swayed by miscellaneous information. But Sam Moss I instantly liked. Then I discovered he passed away (2007). It was the same bring down I felt when I first came to the music of Eva Cassidy. What a pair they would’ve been.
Blues Approved (Drops Jan 28–Modern/Schoolkids Records) is indeed a “great lost” LP by North Carolina’s regionally renowned guitarist Sam Moss. The 1977/1989-93 sessions were found by chance at the end of an old master tape & restored by Chris Stamey (organ).
A highly versatile musician & advocate for the blues as far back as the 60s, Sam was somewhat parallel to the late Chicago blues master Mike Bloomfield (Paul Butterfield Blues Band & Bob Dylan).
On this Moss plays all the varied guitars with clarity. These recordings are surprisingly good. The groove Moss lays down is dynamic & his blues voice is hot-wired.
He may have mixed his fluid tradition with a misstep of more pop-oriented tunes, but I believe those were included as a matter of documentation. The Monkees’ “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” is not as easily interpreted as a blues as their “Take a Giant Step,” “Last Train To Clarksville,” or “Mary, Mary.”
That aside, Moss’s knowledge comes from listening & understanding the roots of his music. He did. The feel in his fingers as he plays the notes with his vocal. He had style.
On this LP the musicians scattered about are Mitch Easter (drums), the Uptown Horns’ Crispin Cioe (saxes), Henry Heidtmann (bass/piano/Farfisa), Ted Lyons (drums/piano), Mike Kennedy (congas), Mike Wesolowski (harmonica), Faith Jones (vocals), Jerry Lee (drums), Corky McMillan (bass/harmony vocal), & Dale Smith (rhythm guitar).
The original sessions were produced by Sam & the restored tapes by Chris Stamey. 14 songs with 6 covers.
Criticism? Yeah. The front cover. Why the image of a forlorn teenager sitting on his mother’s living room sofa? This is not representative of a blues artist of his caliber. The back cover or the 16pp color insert front cover is a more appropriate image. Marketing blues is easy if the artist looks like a blues artist.
“Nightingale Over Berlin,” is a splendid Jimi Hendrix-type slow-burn instrumental. Tight, penetrating & jubilant. The soulful cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t That Peculiar,” is also spirited & adroit. Sam’s vocals consistently dig into the substance of the music. Moss could’ve easily been a lead guitarist with any era Canned Heat.
I prefer Sam slightly over the superb young guitarist Shuggie Otis because Moss plays a blues that’s far more accessible to ears not attuned to the blues on a daily basis.
Lots of gratifying moments on this 48-minute CD. Color image courtesy of the CD insert. Available @ Amazon & https://schoolkidsrecords.com/UPC/634457076884