Music to phone a friend to.
If you ever feel your view on the world tends too far towards the cynical then a dose of Mr Sam & The People People could be the antidote. At first, this New Orleans based singer/songwriter seems just a bit too sweet but give him a chance. His light airy optimism about life comes across as genuine, he is a nice guy and means what he says. His songs contain much happiness, not through rose tinted glasses but in spite of all the world can throw at you.
Mr Sam is Sam Gelband who sets his crooning baritone to a broad sweep of singer/songwriter, folk, indie and psychedelia. He describes his work as “music to phone a friend to”. If he does nothing else he hopes to remind you that what matters are people you care about and feel the same about you. In that he succeeds. These are not songs about great events or a deep analysis of the human condition but wry observations about everyday ups and downs. The effect is surprisingly uplifting.
There are lots of people on the album including including Sam Doores of The Deslondes, Ross Farbe of Video Age, Gina Leslie and The Lostines but ultimately this is Mr Sam’s show. He wrote all the songs and leads vocally and musically. The title track opens with a nostalgic nod in the direction of 1960s pop tinged with a jazz hue. The message is simple, we cannot get along without company. “People come people come and people go/ But if there’s something better, then I wouldn’t know”. A more sultry groove frames ‘Mars Is Alright’ while ‘Get Up Early’ expands with background harmonies to lift the dourest soul.
‘Pictures Of Us’ is an acknowledgement that we change and for Mr Sam that is ok. This acceptance continues to a Jayhawks jangle on the country rock sounding ‘That’s Alright! That’s Ok!’. The comforting organ line absorbs any potential bad feeling. Mr Sam shows a more robust side when he rocks away on ‘Get Along’. Connections do not have to be in person as Mr Sam offers his gratitude for what his indirect friendship with a TV talk show host on the wistful ‘Thank You, Conan O’Brien’.
Definitely at the softer end of americana, Mr Sam reminds us of what he considers important, loving and being loved. Musically he and those around him create a very accomplished sound and if what he says is repetitive it is perhaps a point worth repeating.