Sam Moss’s EP “Neighbors”

A graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA, Sam Moss has released five albums of solo guitar music (with a sixth in the works) as well as several other records with the multiple bands he’s in—and Moss is still in his early twenties! What’s more impressive is that his solo work and the bands he plays with all have a very different sound. Even within his own playing he draws from a wide range of influences, some seemingly at opposite ends of the musical spectrum, citing sources such as “pre-war American country, blues, and folk . . . post-1950 pioneers of outer sound . . . and contemporary solo guitarists” as inspiration. In his latest release, a solo EP titled “Neighbors,” poetic tales are sung by haunting vocals and spun against the sparse backdrop of the innately lonesome-sounding banjo and guitar. Engineered by Eric Carbonara (who is also an accomplished musician), the album is beautifully done.

“Neighbors” opens with the title track, Sam Moss’s voice bending and arching over the dark, moody sound of the banjo which has its distinct pluckiness but at times sounds more like a Middle Eastern stringed instrument such as the qanun. The next song, called “Spiders On The Ceiling,” features guitar and voice. The vocals possess an echoey quality, radiating in waves from the source, while the music consists of thoughtful guitar noodling. I say thoughtful because that’s just what Moss’s playing is; it contains a sense of improvisation and freedom while also remaining fundamentally structured, a difficult duality to achieve but when you do the results are absolutely compelling. Within the structure of the song and its time marking are unexpected slides, quirks, and nuances in the dynamics that give character, depth, and life to the music.

The third track is “Blue Moan Blinds,” an energetic banjo-pickin’ tune something like a bluegrass version of an Irish hornpipe that really showcases Moss’s personal banjo style and technique, followed by “Desert Dogs” in which the vocals bear a sweet and lonesome quality. After that is the only song on the album Moss didn’t write, the traditional American gospel song “Lonesome Valley.” He’s in good company since it was covered by musicians such as Woody Guthrie, The Monroe Brothers, Pete Seeger, and Elvis Presley. Last on the album is “Rotary,” a quiet and somewhat wistful song about the nature of life and the moments and cycles it contains—a fitting end for the album which is pensive, heartfelt, and hearty.

“Neighbors” is available here. (As if his musical accomplishments weren’t enough, Moss co-founded the label his record is released on, Not Nothing Records, AND he also designed and silk-screened the album artwork!)

For more information on this incredible youngster and his current projects, bands, and tours check out sammoss.net.

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