Sam Lewis – Waiting On You

The first line of this album’s first song, an easy country rocker called “3/4 Time,” goes like this: “It’s the same old story, the same old song and dance.” Not great poetry that. But critics who would make such heavy artillery of such small ammunition belong not in the brotherhood of judges, for they will have missed the point. Lewis’ stock and trade is slipping into these simple expressions with the kind of ease one slips into a pair of 15-year old cowboy boots. He does it with a richly interesting voice, one that oscillates between the clean-cut, white hat cowboy sound of Charley Pride and the pre-disco swagger of Boz Scaggs (though he, himself, has the post-modern hippie look of a Berkeley bistro owner). As Lewis’ voice slips into its cowboy boots, his crackerjack band of A-list Music City sessioneers like guitarist Will Kimbrough slip into the groove with equal assurance, akin to a pair of 5-year-old Levis to go with those well-aged Tony Lamas.
The result is a record that’s really quite good, a studious blend of modern Americana and Memphis soul (that, by the way, becomes more lyrically catchy as time goes on).  The aforementioned “3/4 Time” picks up energy with the first chorus, thanks to Kimbrough, who contributes some nice slide lines on the Telecaster and Lewis himself, who supplies some slick “oom-bop-bop” harmonies a la The Jordanaires. Lewis lights gently in the land of early Boz Scaggs on “Love Me Again,” tapping the fabulous McCrary Sisters for the harmonies, Gabe Dixon for a whirl on the Wurlitzer and Kimbrough again for some tasteful Telecaster touches.
Lewis opens the title cut with a nice sentiment, confessing he’s “Waiting for the time it takes to wait on you, thinking of all the things (he wants to) do.” The arrangement here is near perfect, once again opening the soundscape to simple dashes of Dixon’s electric piano and a bit of gospel humming from the sisters. “Maybe I’m just fishing in the ocean,” he concludes, saying “I’ll keep catching and releasing until I find you.”
Lewis and company play straight from the three-chord, slow blues songbook on “She’s A Friend,” then gratefully amp up the tempo a little on bluesy shuffle of “Things Will Never Be The Same.” Whether or not they truly reinvent the bues on the Monday-to-Sunday shuffle of “Reinvent The Blues” could be debated, but there’s no question Sam and his band own every bit of this tune (with Lewis reprising his Jordanaires act once again).
“I thought I’d see you one more time before never again,” he sings with James Taylor vulnerability on “Never Again,” with Kristina Train and Darrell Scott providing gorgeous harmonies and pedal steel. The ever-permeating influence of Townes Van Zant comes home to roost on “Texas”; “Little Time” is a clever bit of backbeat country.
By the time he closes the record with the gentle ballad “I’m Coming Home,” Lewis has made a solid statement: that this Nashville transplant has something to say and the skills to say it well.

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