Updated: Jun 17, 2021
Sam Lambeth – Love & Exile, reviewed by Stephen Pennell
After years of bands that have disbanded and periods in the wilderness, Sam Lambeth returns under his own name and it’s a wise move. Over the years, he's written for as many publications as he has sang for bands and after over a decade of making music and a short retirement, he’s returned under his own moniker and not a moment too soon.
Love & Exile recalls some of alternative music’s most prominent songwriters. For example, the scant, harmonica led ‘The Things You Lose on the Breeze’ is pure Bob Dylan in its folky contemplation. Meanwhile, the surging opener ‘Dog Days Are-A Comin’ Again’ – a furious blast of bluesy riffs, mouth organ and drums – has the throaty fury of anthem man Bruce Springsteen.
Love & Exile is a record that keeps playing in your head after you’ve paused your headphones, deep and polished enough to warrant repeated listening. Much of that goes to esteemed producer Ryan Pinson, whose sharp ear and experience helps turn Love & Exile into the kind of record brought out in the USA of the 1970s.
It's also the little things that stay with you – ‘The King (You and Me)’ could have been a conventional rocker, but is instead decorated with subtle mandolin and sorrowful piano. ‘How’d You Find Me’ is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it thunderbolt of harmonica solos and crunching guitars.
Lambeth saves the best ‘til last. ‘The Scenic Route’ is a six-minute epic that moves through so many moods, starting with stately acoustics and climaxing in soaring electric flourishes. A beautiful finale.
With Love & Exile, Lambeth has made a rich record of loss, sadness and satisfying tunes. It’s a substantial body of work - nearly half an hour - but it positively flies by. These songs are too good to be consumed in bite-size pieces because each one makes you want to hear another. Headphones recommended so you can really get lost in it. And found too.