Album review: SAMANTHA MARTIN & DELTA SUGAR – Run To Me

SAMANTHA MARTIN - RUN TO ME

Gypsy Soul Records [Release date 27.04.18]

Released in Canada in 2018, but finally gaining some overdue promo in Europe now, Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar’s ‘Run To Me’ is a deeply wrought album full of heartfelt lyrics (3 originals and 7 co-writes) and soulful phrasing, framed by subtle arrangements and a layered sound that glues together the cleverly counter-weighted elements of retro and contemporary soul.

Sometimes the best albums demand that extra bit of patience. And so it is with ‘Run To Me’, which takes us on a swampy and sometimes languid journey that ultimately impresses because of the understated power of Samantha Martin’s voice and a band that always serves the songs.

The Toronto based Delta Sugar is the sum of its impressive parts, which all coalesce seamlessly in a linear flow that perfectly showcases her visceral vocals.

‘Run To Me’ is a melange of soul, blues, funk, gospel and old school r&b with large dollops of Muscle Shoals and Stax influences, offset by an up the mix electric piano and frequently accented rhythm guitar parts.

Her lyrics twists and turns draw on relationship and autobiographical songs that search out the kind of feelings and emotions that are easily universalised, especially when delivered over gospel tinged grooves and soulful ballads.

Samantha combines a resonant timbre with clarity of diction and emotive phrasing. She knows when to bring extra emphasis to a line and how to get inside a song, while the band’s subtly interwoven parts reveal the full potential of the arrangements.

In sum, it’s a slow burning contemporary soul album that probably could have done with slightly more contrast and perhaps one more upbeat song. But the understated power of her voice and the band’s commitment to the material allows her to rise above sundry mid-paced outings.

‘Run To Me’ feels like a musical journey that opens with the soul drenched sludgy beat template of ‘You’re The Love’.

It moves into the sultry ‘Wanna Be Your Lover’, the aspirational ‘Chasing Dreams’, and the stirring repeated hook of ‘Over You’, as everything leads inexorably to the undulating funky finish of ‘All Night Long’.

The album is equally predicated on her meaningful lyrics and a consistently good vocal performance, which at times surprises us when she wrestles with a mid-tempo song to find that extra bit of depth in her performance.

She digs deep for a meaningful connection on ‘Gonna Find it’, and changes her vocal attack on the lusty filled ballad ‘Will We Ever Learn’ which showcases her effortless phrasing and harmony singing with her backing vocalists.

The lascivious ‘Wanna Be Your Lover’ is a notable highlight, as her close-to- the-mic whispered phrasing draws the listener into lines such as: “You don’t have to put a ring on it, baby just put your back into it… cos I just want to be your lover.”

‘Chasing Dreams’ is another highlight, being an electric piano-led soul ballad that builds perfectly on the back of the bv’s and horns.  There’s a magical moment at the 3 minute mark when she soars over double bv’s to wring yet more emotion from the song.

‘Good Trouble’ is notably different. The lyrics are probably more weighty than the gentle funky arrangement and poppy chorus, but the music cleverly draws us into the song’s mission statement: “The good we could do for each other, when we’re the friends that we should be.”

‘Run To Me’ could well be Samantha Martin’s break-out album on which she has finally found a musical niche to match her vocal talent. Her song’s smoulder, beguile and occasionally burn and when she opts for a sonorous ballad such as ‘Only So Much’, she has enough vocal presence to fill the track with enough emotion to warrant the gospel accompaniment.

‘Run To Me’ fits the current upswing in soul music. And Samantha Martin has the voice, the songs, and a road tested band to fit the mould.  Better still, the album benefits from Darcy Yates’s intuitive production which lets everything breathe in a way that soul music and deep grooves demand.

Such is the void after the beautiful crafted gospel ending of the album’s closing ‘All Night Long’, that it can only be filled by hitting the repeat button. That, my friends, is the power of soul. ****

Review by Pete Feenstra


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