Already making himself known on the Blues and Folk music scenes, Sam Jefferson is not afraid to challenge expectations with a playing style that is as dynamic as the stories and ideas he sings about. In his debut solo album Rhythm’s Tide, Jefferson’s musical knowledge and poetic sensitivity echo from one track to another as he alternates moods with equal instrumental dexterity and vocal poise. During, what Sam has dubbed, his “finger-tearing foot-stomper” numbers, his playing has been compared to the percussive fingerpicking style of Bert Jansch, while his more mellow compositions exhibit a sensibility to the demands of a song, creating space for reflection.
Rhythm’s Tide is structured like a journey that ebbs and flows. Sam invites his listeners on an emotional voyage, coloured by a selection of playful songs before straying into deeper waters from which he retrieves darker stories and communicates them with intimate intensity. Jefferson’s ten track album consists of seven original compositions, two arrangements, and one poem which he has set to music.
Rhythm’s Tide bursts open with the blues as a swinging slide guitar riff sets the scene in Sam’s self-penned Too Much For You. The young singer capitalises on the momentum of the riff and breaks into the song with soulful aggression. A song which seems to have a particular person in mind, each line rings with furious indignation, culminating in the bravado of the refrain: ‘The way I move/Is clearly just too much for you’.
Next stop on the journey is Jefferson’s arrangement of Pink Anderson’s ‘Try Some of That’, an old ragtime number which delivers a healthy dose of innuendo. Like some kind of mock episode from The Odyssey, the ship seems to be sailing towards the Sirens, or in this case, a ‘girl that sells hot cookies’. Sam recalls having first heard the song from Little Toby Walker at a gig when he was 12. Sam tells me, ‘Toby’s playing was masterful, and he really drew you into a story. It was one of the moments that made me fall in love with the blues. Naturally I’ve been trying to find a batch of “hot cookies” as good as the ones Toby was singing about ever since’.
Jefferson looks to the poetry of William Blake to bring the listener into more meditative waters. Drawing from Songs of Innocence and of Experience, his interpretation of Blake’s ‘The Angel’ sounds like the perfectly natural complement to a poem already charged with spiritual emotion.
Jumping ahead to ‘Hard Travelin’, Jefferson’s arrangement of the Woody Guthrie classic roars with the sound of “fast rattlers” and “flat wheelers” all the way down to the “Lincoln highway”. A tribute to one of his greatest influences, Sam sums it all up, ‘It’s a hard rambling song by a harder rambling man’.
Jefferson’s album closes with the title track, Rhythm’s Tide. Despite its duration of 7:10, it is well worth persevering, as Jefferson’s poetry and musical experimentation shine through. The song conjures the image of a midnight voyage out to sea, articulating a spiritual experience, but with an element of melancholy reminiscent of the music of Nick Drake. ‘On the waves I danced/Melody by chance/Last light was made, of songs we played/To lose our pain’.
Sam Jefferson’s songs do not sacrifice to some transient musical fad but show a truly personal approach to the rich blues and folk traditions. The exceptional quality of this first album will no doubt pave the way to more musical gems from this promising young artist.
Rhythm’s Tide is available to download from: samjefferson.bandcamp.com/releases
Or as a CD encased in a lancing pack with beautiful artwork and photography by Steve Elliot Digital Photography, Dorset. CDs are available for postal orders. All inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sam can also be found on facebook: www.facebook.com/samjeffersonmusic
Since graduating last summer from Sussex University with a degree in Philosophy and English Literature, Sam has gained a reputation on the Brighton live music scene while also gigging in Dorset, Somerset, Norwich, and London. Known in particular as a skilled slide guitarist, composer, and arranger, the young musician’s live shows do justice to the diversity of his repertoire.
Over the next month, Sam will be performing a selection of his songs:
Friday March 4th – B52’s Bar, Horsham.
Sunday March 13th – Green Door Store, Brighton.
Sunday March 20th – 12 Bar Club, London.
Sam is also set to perform at the renowned Broadstairs Folk Festival, which runs August 5th-12th.
Words by James Whittingham