Sam Outlaw 'Nobody Loves' - Black Hills

This debut album from Sam Outlaw is rather good. It reminds me of many of the neo-traditionalist acts of the late ‘80s and early’ 90s where a contemporary attitude and sound was applied to music that was  steadfastly country. This  brought together such diverse artists as Dwight Yoakam, Randy Travis and Steve Earle who have all continued to explore their muse to this day, while no longer having a place on today's country radio playlists. Nobody Loves will also probably be given the cold shoulder at mainstream radio and that is a loss to the variety that the genre should have. This is one of those album that hits the spot and one to which I return to frequently. Outlaw has plaintive voice that gives his songs their heart and soul. There is a sense of heartache at the root of many of these songs that  are declarations of lost love. The opening song Diamond Ring observes "I see no diamond ring on your finger", leaving you to wonder whether it is about finding someone or about the realisation that the person desired will never be in the position of having that ring on their finger from the singer. 

That theme of seeking to eliminate loneliness and find love is further elaborated in Two Broken Hearts,  but here two broken hearts find each other and head off in to the sunset. It Might Kill You is built around the concept of what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. And so it goes with titles like Lonely Man, Get to Know Me and Who Do Think You Are?. These are songs written from both sides of the emotional fence, but the pleasure in the album lies in the overall sound. This is not a traditional fiddle and steel country album, although there is a lot of steel throughout the album which emphasises the lonesome sound that pedal steel makes as an integral part of good country music, which is what this album is all about.

Outlaw taps into that vein, one that runs deep and is the source of life. The production by Kelly Winrich is full, rounded and warm. The supporting players doa  great job overall and Jeremy Long on pedal steel, Brian Whelan on piano and Brad Lindsay on Telecaster all take lead lines that do much to make these songs sound as good as they do. Mention should also be made of Molly Jenson (a singer-songwriter in her own right) and Kelly Winrich's harmony vocals on various tracks. They add an extra dimension to Outlaw's own vocal ability. Keep it Interesting  is  one song to mention where Outlaw and Jenson's voices work particularly well together.

This is an album that plays well as an entity and while everyone will have favourite songs, this set of songs fits together well and sound good in context. So kudos to all involved as I'm sure it was done on a limited budget yet it shows that with  care what can be achieved with ambition.

Nobody Loves may, however, not be to everyone's taste, especially those attuned to the current chart contenders or those who hearts are on Texas dance floors, but to suggest nobody loves Sam Outlaw would be very wrong as here is man who controls his own destiny and whose heart is in his music and his wish to better his craft and to expound his take on the country music he loves. It shows.