REVIEW: Sam Green (ARTIST PROFILE)

It is easy to mistake Sam Green’s musical pedigree. Lumping his 2913–2018 releases under the category of folk singer, Dylan devotee, or would-be poet with a guitar misses the bigger picture. Green and the Time Machine possess a degree of compositional daring Dylan wouldn’t dare approach, ventures far afield of strict folk song structures, and often communicates in a direct conversational style. Spotify has its detractors, with good reason, but encountering a musical artist such as Green illustrates its potential. Features such as organizing his songs by the ten most popular, by album, and allowing space for singles and other standalone releases present a body of work in clear and chronological fashion.

That is an enormous benefit with an artist such as this. They are all excellent, but two 2013 albums will draw many listener’s focus. Players All Are We and I Think It’s About Time are. like much of Green’s music, distinctly low-key affairs and structurally straight-forward. They harbor deceptive variety however; it is obvious, even after a single listen to each release, Green’s willingness to subvert listeners’ expectations adds a signature element to his songwriting. “For the Ocean” from the latter album is notable for showing how Green and his musical partners surround his music with palpable urgency. It is up-tempo compared to his similar efforts but never feels rushed. “Have the Seasons Changed?” from Players All Are We is a rare foray from anyone into the acapella style and this stark approach draws further attention to his melodic skills. “Your Heart is a Diamond” from the same collection does the same, albeit with a much more traditional treatment.

2017’s Which Way Left? is highlighted by several tracks. The stand outs, however, begin with “Eli”. There are two distinct guitar tracks working during this track, the second handling any lead work and adding Tex-Mex flourishes into the song’s undercurrent. The recrimination of its lyrics has much more of a pleading mood than accusation or anger. Some will regard tracks such as “Harry Ginagain” as a novelty, a throwaway, but that’s a misreading. It isn’t attempting to make any sort of substantive statement but showing a playful side to his artistic character is important. The relaxed air surrounding this brief track helps make it even more of an enjoyable listen.

The album’s penultimate track “Mist of the Desert” is one of his best. Green nails a surprisingly fiery vocal and the dramatic construction of the song’s arrangement never sets a foot wrong. The massed backing vocals exerting their effect on another 2017 album, The Time Has Come Again, peaks during several tracks and the finale “Whiskey on Your Shoulders” is one of its highest pinnacles. Its foreboding take on alcohol and its potential cost avoids bathos thanks to his talent for both musical and lyrical understatement. The earlier “Drowning in a Sea of Life” continues the darker themes of the aforementioned track as well as Green’s tastefulness. The Time Has Come Again’s production is among the best Green has enjoyed.

His most recent release available through Spotify, 2018’s Ten Parts of the Journey, proves his creative powers aren’t easily quelled. One of the finest tracks he’s ever written, the album opener “I Carry the Load”, successfully blends his own experience, his understanding of traditional music, and a further flowering of his performing skills into a powerful statement. Its blues and country music influences breathe life into the song without ever sounding dated. Sam Green’s recorded output, via Spotify, is a must hear for anyone interested in high quality songwriting.

Colin Jordan