Tenderheart Sam Outlaw Six Shooter/Cooking Vinyl No tourist in Twangsville, Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Sam Outlaw understands the importance of the raw, unvarnished truth at the heart of classic country music. On his second album the 34-year-old delivers a gem infused with the musical history of his adopted city, as well as Nashville, Austin and every dance hall and honky tonk in between.
Still straddling a line somewhere between Americana and traditional country, Outlaw follows his Ry and Joachim Cooder-produced debut Angeleno with an album that shows the influence of so many great country writers and performers. Along the way he shows himself to be a unique talent.
The album opens with a big ballad, Everyone’s Looking For Home. The stirring entry of Erwin Vasquez and Mariachi Teocuitatlan towards the end places the action on the west coast, setting the emotional tone for much that follows. The influence of 1970s stars such as Jackson Browne (the rousing singalong beauty of the title track) and Warren Zevon (the charming wit of She’s Playing Hard to Get (Rid Of)) are clear in the sound and rock-solid craftsmanship of his writing, but he also shows a superb turn of phrase as he offers unforgettable lines such as “I would listen to her stories until the beer sent me to bed” that would bring a smile to the lips of Randy Newman.
That last line comes from Bougainvillea, I Think, as the protagonist tries to piece together a half-forgotten memory of a neighbour.
Elsewhere there are characters looking for love, looking for connection, looking to belong. All of them are looking to feel. Outlaw makes them all come alive with the steady and still developing skill of a master.