Sam RB: Queen Street Acoustics (samrb.com)

Sam RB: How Many Rains
Sam RB: Queen Street Acoustics (samrb.com)

Auckland songwriter Sam RB has been met with some skepticism (if not outright cynicism) by many mainstream music writers on account of her song for the New Zealand Olympic Team (music journalists rarely like patriotic or cheerleading songs, regardless of quality, in my experience) and that her debut album came with assistance from a Mental Health Media Grant.

That said – with the exception of a couple of songs – that debut album of 2010 Seems I Must Be Human delivered more than enough to make you think that here was a real talent blooming.

These days she busks on Queen Street in central Auckland and I've not only seen here there pull a crowd but also observed how many copies of this album she is selling to people. When people give her the time they are captivated.

This new album is a real step up and comes with some high-hitter support including producer/guitarist Andrew Buckton, former Split Enz/Citizen Band man Mike Chunn, keyboard player Stephen Small (Verlaines), Eddie Rayner (Enz, many production jobs) and others.

Queen Street Acoustic adopts a more consistent tone than her debut – thoughtful acoustic folk, songs of intimacy and emotional uncertaintly which are also mature and often universal observations – and although she concedes there are issues of depression and mental health being dealt to, those few songs slide seamlessly into this delicate tapestry.

RB has a confident vocal style which is affecting in these ballads where she reveals a fragility which many could readily identify with.

On the memorable Lately she opens with the idea of isolation and lack of confidence (who doesn't feel that at some time, especially the young?) then sings "welcome to my world, I don't want to join your game, there's no dignity the way you play" as a slice of confident self-assertion. It also rides on some uplifting chords at exactly the right moment.

How Many Rains is sympathetic portrait of a woman reflecting on a child -- "the wind blew in her face, her hair a long and tangled mess, long gone her youthful grace" -- which is heartbreaking in its simple, honest delivery.

And that is perhaps her chief virtue. Her voice is pure and here given fine settings, but she also offers unadorned emotion, even when it seems to hurt as The Wind and The Rain about things never seen but resting easy with the world as it is.

So when on Black Dog she sings "I'd do anything to feel something, anything at all" you could read this as being about meds . . . but equally as a song about the loss felt when pure love has gone: "When you ask me how I feel I say that I'm okay, but is that what I'm supposed to say?"

When she sings of farewelling someone on No More  -- "thanks for the apology, shame you didn't mean it . . . one day I just stopped listening to anything you said, now there's no more last chances left" -- she imbues the words with a sense of regret.

The subdued tone is rarely broken (right at the end is the slightly more strident Don't MInd) but this makes for a fine consistency.

Where her debut album contained some lyrical clunkers in the attempt to say so much, this one is the stronger for pulling back on the message and going more directly to the emotions.

You'd hope people in offices might give this one as fair a hearing as those on the street. It's a damn fine album. 


Share It

Your Comments

Sally Gallagher - Mar 25, 2013

Great review, Graham, and she deserves it. I reckon Sam RB is our Eva Cassidy. She's a treasure.

John McCready - Mar 25, 2013

Black Dog excellent. Looking forward to hearing the whole album.

Sam RB - Mar 25, 2013

Kia ora Sally! I really dig Eva Cassidy's voice and hope to one day play guitar like she did. So thank you for the massive compliment. And thank you Graham for the wonderful review :) Sam RB

Sam RB - Mar 27, 2013

Hope you enjoy it John :)

Frankie - Apr 19, 2013

This is absolutely gorgeous...but i have to say Sam RB is our Sam RB! I like Eva Cassidy but Sam is her own thing and it's fantastic!

Sam RB - May 13, 2013

Cheers Frankie! :)

post a comment

More from this section   Music articles index

Lydia Cole: Me and Moon (lydiacole.com)

Lydia Cole: Me and Moon (lydiacole.com)

Lydia Cole has had some interesting and, I think, generous reviews for this quiet, intimate and at times very engaging album. But . . . And we'll get to that "but" in a minute.... > Read more

David Kilgour and the Heavy Eights: Left By Soft (Arch Hill)

David Kilgour and the Heavy Eights: Left By Soft (Arch Hill)

For his defining guitar playing in the Clean and beyond, David Kilgour has inspired two generations of acolytes: the first being the generation of Flying Nun followers in the Eighties and Nineties,... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

GUEST WRITER JARED HILL on the tainted legacy of Bob Marley

GUEST WRITER JARED HILL on the tainted legacy of Bob Marley

Of all the many historical figures in the 20th century regarded as forbearers of cultural revolution, Bob Marley is probably the most overlooked. While his unique brand of counterculture music... > Read more

Ben Harper, Charlie Musselwhite: Get Up! (Stax)

Ben Harper, Charlie Musselwhite: Get Up! (Stax)

To be honest, the first couple of times I saw Ben Harper I walked out being bored witless by a man I jokingly came to refer to as "Taj Marley" because he simply seemed to weld together... > Read more