CONCERT REVIEW: Sam Lewis in Concert, Lincs Rural and Community Touring, Crowland Abbey
Just as Jeff Bridges cemented his place in cinema folklore as “The Dude” in the Coen Brothers film, The Big Lebowski, Nashville singer-songwriter Sam Lewis is making waves in Americana music circles.
Sam has struck a chord in the UK too where he is currently on a 23-date tour to promote his recent album Loversity.
Crowland Abbey was the breathtaking setting for an acoustic night with Sam as part of Lincolnshire Rural and Community Touring series.
Speaking to Spalding Today before the concert, Sam said: "When I moved to Nashville ten years ago, the best advice I was given (by legendary country guitarist Kenny Vaughan) was 'always make music that you want to listen to',
"If I don't believe in it, I can't expect anyone else to believe in it.
"As a singer-songwriter, and a human being, you're nothing more than a filter.
"Everything you put in, whether it's food or a conversation you have with someone, that information or content goes somewhere.
"I try to consume things that have sustenance because that's what I want to put out and, musically speaking, it's a conviction about how the message is delivered.
"That's why I love Van Morrison because there's no one else who sounds like him.
"He has a very brassy voice, similar to a saxophone meeting a trumpet, and when you have an original sound like that, you can say pretty much anything that's been said before.
"It just happens to sound different and the long-term aim of what I'm trying to do, through my writing and performing, is to try and develop an overall style.
"When you have a style that can be spotted, that's success but it takes a lot of time."
With a natural southern charm (the southern in question being the US state of Tennessee where Nashville is based), Sam presented a mixture of material that saw his voice draw comparisons with Van Morrison, James Taylor and a late 60s/early 70s version of Bob Dylan.
Sam said: "In terms of originality, everyone tries to be themselves.
"But living in a city like Nashville can tilt your plans, often in an unhealthy way.
"So I set the bar pretty low when I moved to Nashville where I just wanted to learn how to be a better songwriter.
"I knew that I had something, I was working hard at it and I could tell there was a growth happening.
"But there were a lot of songwriters in Nashville who I could see more often to work with them.
"At the same time, I moved around a lot as a child so I'm pretty comfortable with being new and unknown."
The Crowland Abbey audience simply absorbed songs wrapped in a blues/folk/roots/bluegrass texture with titles, such as Every Day is Going to be Different from Now On, Accidental Harmony, Virginia Avenue, River Full of Heartache, Three Four Time and, best of all, the memorable Smile.
Sam said: "I've never really been frightened or overwhelmed by many people who are doing the same thing as me.
"I hadn't been in Nashville more than a year before I realised that I was going to have to write and record my own stuff and then tour with it.
"What I write is for me and it's taken this long, eight or nine years, before other songwriters asked me to write with them.
"But Kenny Vaughan has been a huge advocate for what it is I'm trying to do and it gives me confidence to know that people who are that talented can pull you up, rather than pull you down."
Sam is nearing the end of his five-week, 23-date Loversity UK tour that included stops in Norwich, Cambridge, Glasgow and London where the tour started on January 30 and finishes tomorrow night (Wednesday).
"The English are some of the hardest people to impress, a combination of politeness and reserve," Sam said.
"But that's why I enjoy playing over here and I've been doing it since 2013, my last visit having been two years ago.
"The audiences have been extremely engaging and so attentive that I've never really had to sweat.
"I believe that if you give someone your undivided attention, you're going to see someone either sink or swim."
As the Dude would say himself, Sam Lewis “really tied the room together”.
Review and interview by Winston Brown