ALBUM REVIEW: Sam Lewis’ “Self-Titled”

The unexpected artist has nothing but opportunity.

There are no expectations or comparisons to past achievements to clout judgment/artistic creation. Just a blank canvas. On March 13, expect to be introduced to the unexpected, Sam Lewis, and his brilliant creation.

Lewis, a singer/songwriter from Nashville, Tenn., is set to release his 10-track, self-titled debut in less than three weeks. The album features some of Nashville’s top session and touring players, including guitarist Kenny Vaughan, keyboard player Reggie Bradley Smith, Derek Mixon on drums and bass player Dave Jacques.

It took five years of constant writing, performing and touring to create this album, but its material only proves good things come to those who wait.

Without wasting anytime, the first track, The Cross I Wear, does a great job of introducing Lewis’ sound. The bluesy guitar, coupled with the incredible vocals and storytelling are just a preview of what’s in store.

The rich, vivid storytelling continues in following track In My Dreams, but really blossoms into something personal and soulful in the third, I’m a River (feat. Jonell Mosser).

I’m a River shows depth. It’s language in specific, but at the same time never overwhelms listeners with to much information, creating an emotional imagery that isn’t very common today. The realness packed into this track (along with every other) instantaneously creates a link between Lewis and other famous singer/songwriters like Amos Lee, John Prine and Henry McCullough.

Every great songwriter will admit certain things in their life have contributed to the style they’ve developed and Lewis is no different, singing about his on the autobiographical track Southern Greek Tragedy (#4).

“I never once felt, in this whole process that someone just kind of pointed,” Lewis said. “No one took me by the hand, but almost every single one of these connections were very personal. I was introduced to these people that helped make this record. These are gonna be people that I’m going to know the rest of my life.”

Other highlights of the album include, well, all of them. I blame Fishbowl’s word limit for their absence. However, they are just as fantastic as those previously mentioned – a personal favorite being The Don’t Drop Inn (#5).

Yes, it seems Lewis has proved the “unexpected theory” briefly stated in the intro might be valid. He created something personal, intimate and honest for listeners, who are no-doubt thirsting for something new.

This singer/songwriter’s debut album has placed him among good company in the category, but has also set high expectations on his follow-up release. But, there’s no need to fixate on the future, especially when the present version is just too damn good to stray from.

Be sure to visit the site Wednesday for Fishbowl’s exclusive interview with Sam.

This article was originally published on on February 27, 2012.