EP Review: Sam Sherwin – Left In

Sam Sherwin - Left In EP cover

image courtesy of Media Stew Public Relations

EP Review of Sam Sherwin: Left In

Left In is the follow-up to Sam Sherwin‘s full-length album, Iodine Cocktails, which I reviewed here three years ago. It’s a great continuation of the vibe in that prior release, perhaps skewing a bit more toward the live blues-rock joint vibe than the big stage rock show flavor of the prior release. Still, one can’t help imagining “The Wells Run Dry” rocking a stadium crowd, too, so my comparison is a bit of an oversimplification.

Sam Sherwin

photo by CE Katz; photo courtesy of Media Stew Public Relations

The songs are tuneful and catchy. Sam’s vocals have the ability to cast a rough edginess that suggests real-life experience and emotion while still powerfully hitting all the notes. Very New Jersey rocker-ish, appropriately.

The keys and background vocals add a richness and playfulness to EP-opener “Can’t Depend On You,” balancing the earnest growling blues-rocker song style. A great introduction to the depth and breadth of Sam’s music, this song is a well-chosen first impression.

“Johnny Got Soul” follows, with a bit of a bemused feel to the vocals in the first verse, providing a matter-of-fact descriptiveness that serves the song well. The bridges divide the song into sections, providing a breath of fresh air and break in tempo that helps the listener focus on and enjoy the vibe – the soulful, bluesy vibe, natch – of the verses and chorus.

Sam slows things down with the mellow, wistful “Losing My Faith.” Driven instrumentally by piano with well-placed organ, the music bed well-supports the aching vocal delivery in the verses and chorus and is supplemented by backing vocal bridges, soaring both high and low, in the second half of the track. I know it’s a dorky music-reviewer type of thing to say that one of my favorite things about a song is its arrangement, but I’m playing that card here.

Sam Sherwin

photo by Dwyt Dayan; photo courtesy of Media Stew Public Relations

The fourth and final song on this all-too-short disc, “The Wells Run Dry,” brings back the energy. A gruffy, seedy juke joint kind of energy. Fun, with instrumental runs and a wry delivery. Picture a big auditorium, a well-choreographed lighting sequence, and a rollicking jam band feel, all in a well-structured bluesy rock song package. A great closing number to a well-bookended four-song collection.

I always dig a Sam Sherwin release. Granted, it’s generally a little hard to describe, but at its heart, it’s good, old-fashioned rock and roll with a pop-friendly flair, rooted in multiple decades of the classic rock era, with influences from a broad range of other musical genres. In this case, lots of blues, but not just. I know it’s only rock ‘n roll, but I like it.

Looking Ahead

When live music returns in earnest, one place to look for upcoming gigs would be the “Shows” tab on Sam Sherwin’s ReverbNation page.

Album Review: Sam Sherwin – Iodine Cocktails

Sam Sherwin

photo by Vincent Mineo; photo courtesy of Media Stew Public Relations

Album Review of Sam Sherwin: Iodine Cocktails

Straightforward rock ‘n roll from New Jersey. With roots in the ’70s and ’80s, Sam Sherwin‘s Iodine Cocktails is a bit of a rock ‘n roll, um, cocktail.

Sam Sherwin - Iodine Cocktails

image courtesy of Media Stew Public Relations

Sam Sherwin’s Iodine Cocktails showcases musical styles that recall rock ‘n rollers as disparate as Randy Newman and Bruce Springsteen.

Sam kicks things off with the cheerful, Randy Newman-esque “Anymore.” Picture a sunny day, two or three female backup singers adding emphasis, and a smile on everyone’s face, and you’ve captured the essence of this number. Moderately energetic with a laid-back, catchy, recurring guitar hook, “Anymore” has all the attention-grabbing elements perfect for an opening track, and it’s likely to become and remain a favorite.

Sam Sherwin

photo by Geoff Lee; photo courtesy of Media Stew Public Relations

But even within the sunny opening number, there’s a hint of regular-guy New Jersey in the song, and that’s a thread that’s found elsewhere in Iodine Cocktails, too. Notably on the mellow, slightly melancholy, harmonica and guitar-filled, most Jersey-esque rocker on the album, “Automatic Day.”

Sam Sherwin

photo by Dwyt Dayan; photo courtesy of Media Stew Public Relations

More prominent throughout the album, though, are the female backing vocals that add a fullness to the music. On “Without You,” for example, they’re paired with keyboards and well-placed organ for emphasis. Sam’s voice on “Without You” is smooth, melancholy, and gritty wherever the song calls for it, showing a range of vocal versatility within a five-minute song capsule.

“Well OK” features a John Mellencamp or Bruce Hornsby-ish tempo and well-suited harmonica intro, though Sam’s vocals have perhaps a smidgen more of a knowing sneer than you’d expect form Mellencamp, with maybe a hint of Springsteen’s grit. You’ll find the rich female backing vocals again on “And a Whole Lot More,” this time with more of the uptempo laid-backness of songs like “Well OK.”

Sam Sherwin

photo by Dwyt Dayan; photo courtesy of Media Stew Public Relations

That’s not to say that there isn’t the occasional outlier – the fun “At the Old Canal” is a bit of a barn-raising-ready, slow-tempo, almost-twangy Americana number. But even this has a bit of Sam’s rock ‘n roll show band flair to it, more of a fun, quirky number than a shift in his base style.

And, going the other way on the rock ‘n roll spectrum, “Lick Your Lips” starts with a George Thorogood-esque gritty intro before moving to a more energetic, accessible, gritty blues rock style for the rest of the song. Still rock ‘n roll. And, if you noticed, still “gritty.” A little of that is Sam’s vocals, but more, I think, is the recurring, wailing, blues-rock guitar hook.

Indeed, Sam Sherwin touches upon a variety of classic, mid-tempo, radio-friendly rock ‘n roll styles, infusing his music with elements reminiscent of a broad cross-section of top artists from that mainstream rock ‘n roll genre. A bulk of the songs, including those I failed to mention, fall within this range, providing a varied yet cohesive 10-song collection that’s a solid addition to any mainstream, multi-decade rock ‘n roll collection.