“I was about to write a piece on Joe Sampson’s Songs of Delay EP, but days, weeks and months passed. Suddenly it was December and Sampson launched a new record, Chansons de Parade. Now, as it is early January 2017, I will try to ‘make good on’ my missing review from 2015 by writing a two-in-one piece for both releases now. The Songs of Delay EP held 5 songs, while Chansons de Parade holds 9 songs. Altogether, the two platters clock in at less than 35 minutes. Which could be an album of perfect length.
Sampson is an American artist based in Denver, Colorado (since 2000). He grew up in Connecticut, for then – at age (about) nineteen – to move to Arizona. Via Seattle, WA, and Charleston, South Carolina he eventually ended up in Colorado. In his childhood days, (it’s been said) he was singing in his family’s barbershop quartet. Eventually, over the years, he turned into a low-voiced singer-songwriter writing quality songs influenced by a mixture of Simon & Garfunkel, Nick Drake, Leonard Cohen, Iron & Wine, Devendra Banhart, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy/Will Oldham, and Low to name but a few. He’s been a member of bands like A Dog Paloma and Bad Weather California; he’s been collaborating on projects like Wentworth-Kersey, or he’s been playing solo shows with friends (like Nathaniel Rateliff, who contributes to Songs of Delay). Sampson has been a visible member of the acoustic songwriter scene in Denver for some years, but he’s only distributed (hand-circulated) a bunch of four-track recordings on CD-Rs only, plus even a ‘box set’ with his songs, until some friends of his ‘forced’ him to record and release his first ‘real’ record, Kill Our Friends (Fellow Creature Recordings, 2012). It’s quite hard to track him down, so it seems Songs of Delay is his first record since the 2012 album. He has probably lived a hard-knock life, which is reflected through some of his lyrics.
The EP opens with “Song Bird”, a duet with another Denver singer-songwriter buddy of his, the aforementioned Nathaniel Rateliff (who’s had a celebrated solo career on his own). “Moon on the Rise” is a perfect song for us here at Luna Kafé, but I’d stay off the glue and drink mentioned in the lyrics. “Dream on Demon” follows, but it is the next song that is the true highlight of this EP. The melancholy “My Love” is a fantastic, brilliant song. The mood, the performance, the atmosphere, the arrangement, the vocals, the guitar playing. Everything. The EP’s closing track is another fine track, “Paper Dolls”. Again, Joe Sampson shows skills as a songwriter and as a performer. Imagine sad, bittersweet songs with humor, punch and sublimity. Hidden Shoal claims that Joe Sampson is ‘the champion of the musical understatement’ and the label states that ‘each song exuding a gently mesmerising beauty.’ True words. Joe Sampson is a fine artist who should definitely find a bigger audience. I guess he will do so. I sure hope he will. He deserves a bigger audience. His songs are naked, stripped and raw, aiming for your heart and soul.
The quick follow-up to Songs of Delay appeared only 3 months after his EP. Chansons de Parade is another fine collection of well-crafted songs. According to Hidden Shoal, these are songs ‘with an uncanny ability to quietly get under your skin.’ The single “Wealth” opens the album in a fine way. “Orchard” is one of the highlights on an album sparkling and flowing with fine, calm songs which sounds ‘familial rather than familiar’, holding ‘delicious melodic sensibility’ (again Hidden Shoal). “Come What May” sounds more uplifting, happier, as does “(Trawling)”. Even his sad songs sound uplifting, if you’re asking me. Take “Impressed”, “Otherwise The Pull” or “Blue” and you’ll (maybe) see what I mean. To quote Hidden Shoal once more: ‘combining the emotional weight of acoustic breakup albums like Beck’s Sea Change or Ryan Adams’ Heartbreaker with an aw-fuck-it humour.’ Chansons de Parade is for sure a comforting album now as winter means rain and storm and the all fucked-up Trump soon takes the Presidential chair. Joe Sampson for president, I’d say!”