Genres are helpful directional signs for pointing listeners toward an artist's general sound, a tagging device that is especially helpful on a first album when there is little or no previous exposure to use as a natural guide. The difficulty crops up when an artist doesn't necessarily slip into one of the comfortable pigeonholes that the music industry has invented for that purpose; Sam Lewis is several of those artists wrapped up into one hypertalented knot.
On his self-titled, self-released debut, Lewis touches on any number of different influences but not in a scattershot, sampler platter fashion. Rather, Lewis has taken signature elements of country, Americana and soul and simmered them over the slow boil of his songwriting style to come up with a sound that manages to be none of those things individually and all of those things collectively.
From the country-smoked lope of the opening track, The Cross I Wear, to the gospel-drenched closer, Runaway Bride, Lewis and his stacked deck of studio talent (including guitarist Kenny Vaughan and keyboardist Reggie Bradley Smith) weave a gorgeous and not subtle thread of soul throughout the proceedings. Vocally, Lewis often drifts into a quivery vibe reminiscent of a twangier Chris Isaak, but for passionate delivery of a song, comparisons to Van Morrison aren't far off the beam.
Sam Lewis shows plenty of promise on his first album, particularly in the songwriting department, and we know where that's gotten guys like John Prine and John Hiatt.