Don Michael Sampson - Acoustic Rhythm and Slide Guitar, Lead Vocals, Harmony Vocals, Percussion
Warren Haynes - Slide and Electric Lead Guitar
Ben Keith - Pedal Steel, Tambourine, Slide Guitar
Chad Cromwell - Drums and Percussion
Craig Krampf - Drums
Michael Rhodes - Bass
Dave Pomeroy - Bass
Larry Knechtal - Piano
Kim Fleming - Harmony Vocals
Vicki Hampton - Harmony Vocals
DON MICHAEL SAMPSON: "Copper Moon" (Appaloosa AP 110-2)
By: Renato Bottani
I have been waiting for months for the release of this disk. I lived through some of its gestation period and the subsequent labor pains -- together with its executive producer ... Franco Ratti, whose determination and stubbornness are probably familiar to many.
Now that the disk has finally been released, we can speak "freely," we can try to point the^rausic lover towards a product of absolute quality that needs have no fear of comparisons with the most important singer-songwriter products of 1995.
Four records in seventeen years is decidedly little: this person Sampson is reserved, elusive, a loner par excellence. He lives in Nashville, but obviously that does not mean he has anything to do with the swishy sound of the country charts like Tom Ovans and all the rest. He produced his first three records himself for the homegrown Revolver label, and only now, seven years after the splendid "CRIMSON WINDS" (a CD discovered only recently in Europe), he put his trust in others besides himself.
Trust ... a truly serious thing. For my part I remember that I trusted good old Sampson immediately, when I bought his first two records "AMERICANSONGS" and "COYOTE" in the United States directly after their release in 1978 and 1984 respectively. These are also two great records, but difficult to find and still not available as CD's. What genre does he do, whom does he resemble, this Sampson? Simple questions, but difficult to answer. He writes songs, Sampson, he sings them one after another in a linear fashion, with a stentorian voice, supported by an exact and refined instrumentation, simple and classic, based on acoustic and electric guitars, bass, drums. At times something different is added to the mix, or the rhythm section disappears, as in several songs on this "COPPER MOON" album.
That's all? Well, any Simple Simon can do that, someone might object. That's just it. When a true artist does it, the result can be a masterpiece.
Now Don Michael Sampson, he's a true artist, as God is my witness: a great singer-songwriter — one whose backpack is loaded with "substance" — and I assure you that his records are an absolute priority for the demanding listener. Dry and decisive musicality that unwinds sinuously, enchanting, in a folkrock context of absolute quality. Everything is reduced to essentials: nice sound with only a few instruments, big, very big impact, beyond a doubt. DMS does not have a great voice, but he has "that" voice ... the voice of someone who has wandered in the desert, of someone who has lost his belongings, of someone who suffers. As a guitarist, he does what he has to, and it's fine like that.
At times it seems to me almost as if you could think of Sampson as a possible evolution (dimensional ly parallel but inevitably differentiated) of ... well, John Prine, for that way of doing country rock and folk rock so offhandedly that it doesn't even seem to be that any more.
Listen to the first song on "COPPER MOpN" ("Three White Horses") and judge for yourself. This is also the first of six instrumental pieces, with Ben Keith on steel, slide and tambourine, Warren Haynes on electric (lead and slide), Michael Rhodes or Dave Pomeroy on bass, Chad Cromwell or Craig Krampf on drums. On two occasions you can also hear Larry Knechtal's piano.
Sampson plays the acoustic (Martin, Gibson) and also the twelve-string. There is sadness in the grooves of this disk, at times desperation; always there's something magic, something bewitching.
I should list the songs at this point: listen, they are all beautiful. I would not know how to choose. An indispensable album, which you really can't do without ... it is still hard for me to realize that it really exists.
OUT OF TIME
Numero 12, September/October 1995
Don Michael Sampson
"Copper Moon" - Appaloosa AP 110-2
Three white horses
Dark horse rider
61 Road/Strongest of stars
Red bird in the rain
Long time ago
All there is to know
This is the fourth album release by one of America's closest guarded secrets, the unique talent known as Don Michael Sampson.
Sampson is a singer, song writer and picker who currently resides just outside Nashville and who is determined to forge his own musical identity with his vocal styling and original compositions.
Judging from his recordings, his influences range from the Johnny Burnette Rock 'n' Roll Trio through to Neil Young and thrown into the melting pot for good measure are his own smoky tinged vocals, all in all a potent mixture which deserves to be heard by audiences who appreciate true artistry.
His first two album "Americansongs" and "Coyote" were west coast recordings and were issued in 1979 and 1983 by Revolver Records and demonstrated the evolving talent. In 1988, the first Sampson recordings made, (in part) in Nashville were issued on the album "Crimson Winds" . This record included the unjustly overlooked but cult favourite "Long Black Train" which the aforementioned Johnny Burnette would have been proud of, it is that good. The last mentioned stands alongside releases of the time by the likes of Dwight Yoakham, Steve Earle and Steven Wayne Horton.
1995 sees the issue of his latest offering "Copper Moon". This a veritable pot pouri of own compositions, tempos and themes but all bearing a personal identification. Sleeping Dogs is a song cut at the first take with a strong blues influence, mean and moody vocals and lyrics full of apprehension.
Three White Horses and Blue are good honky tonk shuffles which leave the listener feeling happy in the first instance and with mixed emotions in the latter case. 61 Road has a Ritchie Valens chugging style guitar work and Black Tambourine is an atmospheric song with a crying guitar. Both paint a mind portrait of a guy on a stage in a corner of a smoke filled bar room pouring his heart out in song.
Red Bird In The Rain has a full backing from the likes of Larry Knechtal, Ben Keith, Dave Pomery and Craig Krampf and is just a plain old beautiful song Acoustic offerings include Dark Horse Rider, Strongest Of Stars, Lonesome Ace and All There Is To Know which all have meaningful lyrics demanding to be listened to .
Thieves has a degree of improvisation evident ( and how many classic songs have come about in this manner)and Long Time Ago has a strong gospel feel. Both songs evoke a picture of life in Southern backwoods.
This is certainly one of the better "country" offerings of 1995 and is well worth seeking out. In case of difficulty, write direct to Red
Horse Productions, P.O. Box 158304. Nashville, Tennessee 37215, USA.
(c) Tony Wilkinson - October 1995