A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
By Roberta B. Schwartz
Les Sampou is the genuine article. There are lots of talented blues artists out there, but no one marries the blues to the art of the contemporary singer/songwriter like Les Sampou. Mix in a mean slide guitar, powerful vocals and a musical presence that keeps you at the edge of your seat, and you're beginning to catch on to an exciting, new talent.
But Sampou can do a great deal more than sing the blues. In her new recording "Fall From Grace," she moves with ease from contemporary folk, to blues, to rock, and even a bit of country. And like the best of her peers, Sampou is a great storyteller. The characters whose tales are told here are an interesting lot, whether they live in a trailer park, or inside the skin of a teenager on the edge of adulthood. We care about these folks because Sampou's lyrics feel honest, authentic and real.
All of Sampou's considerable skills come together in the recording's opening tune, "Holy Land." This tale of a family down, but not completely out features Sampou's tasty guitar and bluesy vocal delivery. Sampou's rock roots take flight in "The Things I Should've Said," a song about all the things we could have said if we only had the words. Duke Levine's electric guitar, and Lorne Entress on drums are particularly fine here. "Home Again" is a lovely folk-flavored tune about the place we call home, wherever it might be. Sampou's sweet vocal is accompanied by Duke Levine on mandola and Denis "Fly" Amero's backing vocals. The power of friendship betrayed comes to life in "Flesh and Blood." A beautifully written tale of the destructive force of homophobia, this is songwriting as good as it gets.
Mason Daring is the talent behind the production of "Fall From Grace," Les Sampou's second recording, and first on Rounder Records' Flying Fish label. A musician in his own right, Daring has surrounded Sampou's vocals and guitar with some of the finest talents on the acoustic scene. Duke Levine, who is quickly becoming the leading session player in the business (Ellis Paul, Barbara Kessler and Carol Noonan have all benefited from his presence on their recordings), is indispensible here as well.
With "Fall From Grace," Les Sampou is well on her way to establishing herseslf as a force to be reckoned with on both the blues and acoustic stage. Her wizardry on the guitar, skilled storytelling and powerful musical presence add up to an original and unique talent. And no one can sing the blues like Les Sampou.
[Edited by Shawn Linderman]
Copyright 1997, Three Rivers Folklife Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior written permission and attribution.