Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar - The Reckless One

Three thoughts to begin with:
1.  Firstly - Samantha Martin sings like she really, really means it.
2.  If such a thing existed, I’d say that Martin and her co-writers – 11 out of the 12 tracks on The Reckless One are originals – were alumni of the Little Steven School for Disciples of Soul and R’n’B.
3.  The Delta Sugar gang know their green onions when it comes to arrangements and delivery.  I mean, seriously.  Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar hail from modern-day Toronto, but it sounds like their hearts are in Memphis, Muscle Shoals and Motown – in the Sixties.
Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar - happy singing about heartbreak
Pic by Paul Wright
On the first point, I refer you to track number five, ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’, the tentpole from which the rest of the album hangs.  A gospel-tinged slowie, it starts off with restrained backing, over which Martin holds herself in check through the verse, while demonstrating how solid she is at the bottom end of her range.  And then, with the chorus, it starts. She stretches out and takes off with full-throated passion, gathering intensity as the song progresses but still showing terrific vocal control.  By the time it’s done, Janis Joplin wrung out with emotion springs to mind.  Never mind what the rest of the band are doing, Martin is the focal point and then some.
As for the material, it ducks and dives around different soul styles and angles with savvy and blistering conviction.  The opening couple of numbers, ‘Love Is All Around’ and ‘Don’t Have To Be’, come off like Stax soul, the former all staccato horns and spring-heeled bass while Martin introduces herself in drawling fashion, the latter neatly twisting a verse with a drum-and-vocal-only delivery.
In the wake of ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’ they take a turn through Spector-country.  On ‘Sacrifice’ an acoustic guitar rattles along over a cantering rhythm section, while they also usher in some strings, crank up the reverb on the backing vocals, and Martin makes like a female Gene Pitney.  The following ‘So I Always Know’ is slower, rolling along on romantic waves, with “Tell me, tell me!” backing vocals suggestive of The Ronettes or somesuch, and overall sounding like it should be filmed in grainy black and white, know what I mean?  And ‘Pass Me By’ sounds like the Asbury Jukes having a blast at the Wall of Sound, with a whomping beat, urgent bass, twirls of guitar, and tense horns that eventually get a chance to relax in the bridge.  There’s a lot going on, but Samantha and co know how to leave you wanting more – none of these three songs clock more than four minutes.
This is an album where guitar is primarily part of the rhythm section, but Curtis Chaffey – who also co-wrote four tracks - does get out to play a couple of times.  On the bitter-sweet ‘Loving You Is Easy’ he delivers a slide solo that skates through nicely before the horns give wings to the ending.  And on the old-fashioned torch song ‘Better To Have’ (as in better to have never loved, upending the usual aphorism) he sets out an economical solo, in the eye of Martin’s emotional tornado, that Steve Cropper would be happy with.
I’m reminded of that other Samantha, Ms Fish, reflecting on the lyrical themes of her R’n’B album Chills & Fever: “That’s the human condition. Love, desire, heartache . . . ,” she observed in an interview.  That’s the vibe of The Reckless One summed up right there – and boy do Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar make it sound convincing.

The Reckless One is out now on Gypsy Soul Records.

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