Thursday, June 14, 2012

REVIEW: Sam Russell With The Harborrats - The Water Balloon

Seattle singer/songwriter Sam Russell, with his frequent collaborators, The Harborrats, has just released The Water Balloon, the fifth edition of his Blue Moon Bible series.  What does this writer do when he discovers there is a new release from Sam Russell With the Harborrats?  I assure you, it was an entirely objective and professional response - I set aside my other work, ignored other deadlines, procured the album and resolved to push it towards the head of the line and get a post out as soon as I could.  After all, we aren't just highly-paid and internationally acclaimed tastemakers at When You Motor Away, we are fans of music we like.  And I like what Sam and his friends are serving.

And what comes from the tap is Americana soul.  The music has high energy, emotional depth and a lead vocalist in Russell that, as another critic once wrote, no other artist ever wants to follow on stage.  The music reflect Memphis soul, old fashioned pop, garage, folk and country, but specializes in songs that start slowly, pulling the listener into the story, and then explode into rollicking climax.  Moreover, the work is impressive not just because it sounds good.  The songs are authentic stories about life, with humor, sorrow and optimism.

Memphis soul from a white boy who grew up in Kenosha, Wisconsin?  Here is the lead track:

A slower tempo offering is the title track, a sublime tale of addiction and potential redemption:

You can stream the entire eight-track album at the Bandcamp link.  But you also can purchase it for six dollars.

Sam wrote all the songs on the album.  The player credits are as follows:
Sam Russell-vocals, guitar 
Michael Spaly-violin, vocals mandolin, guitar 
James Apollo-vocals, keyboards, guitar, harmonica 
Carey Rayburn-trumpet 
Allison Tulloss-vocals, flute, keyboards 
Kjell Anderson-violin 
Schuyler Jones-electric bass 
Ken Nottingham-upright & electric bass 
Dave Forrester-drums, percussion 
Isaac Chirino-percussion 
Toby Hanson-accordion 
John Tomlinson-Hammond B3 
Carlos Tulloss-bass on 3 
Nathan Wade-vocal on 6 
Daniel Jay Shontz-trombone on 5 
Justin Roeser-guitar on 4 

"Support Your Local Waitress" is a fun pop track --

The Blue Moon Bible series is intended to be eight albums with eight tracks each, and they feature recurring lyrical themes.  The crack When You Motor Away accounting department assures me that Water Balloon is number five.  The sixth, The Year of the Cow, is scheduled for an August release.  You can find past releases in the series at the links below.  In reflecting on the list, I was impressed with the number of songs from past releases that have spots on my favorite playlists.  And to entice you to spend a bit of time exploring the prior volumes, here is the wonderful title track to Volume C, "Salted Caramel Shake" --

Blue Moon Bible series homepage
Sam Russell's Facebook

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