Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
The current issue of Esquire magazine at the time of this taping of Sam Roberts in Austin, Texas, during the middle of March at the South By Southwest music conference featured the nicest and most complimentary article written about a man and his band in the last decade. It was falling all over itself in very acceptable ways. It had a valid point and it made its ringing endorsement for the Canadian who has been bigger than hockey and the Great Bear Lake in our neighbor to the north for years and years, winning all kinds of Juno Awards and selling many, many, many records. Writer Andy Langer wrote this of the lightly bearded, handsome and talented Roberts, "He sounds like a guy who's not going to be satisfied being big just in Canada. In a sea of cookie-cutter download-today, gone-tomorrow rock stars, originality, ambition, and honesty go a long way. He'll make you evangelical about rock, because this is what it's supposed to sound like." Roberts blushed a bit when the piece was mentioned, but he graciously appreciated all the bluster and hoped that it would help his emergence as the same kind of star in the U.S. as he enjoys in his home country. It's not an easy thing to attain - this American amore - for some reason. Most who live in this country and share the long and winding highways with us are fickle people, willing to play Frogger with their favorite groups, perhaps more than they'd like to admit, shuffling off to the next flavor of the week or even just sticking with the easy tastes, those handed to them by the dint of no work whatsoever, just lazy passivity. There's a lot of that around these parts - the arousal from nothing, the support of nothing that takes real effort. Oh, it's very silly, but it is what it is. Roberts deserves this effort out of a country that eats up things like Taylor Swift and Asher Roth but lets Richard Swift and Cass McCombs age away, rotting a little, far as they are away from ubiquitous status and the tips of tongues. Roberts makes arena rock anthems that can be played huge and bushy, giving us reasons to reach into our pockets for lighters and for twenty more dollars for two more over-priced beers because, what-the-hell we're having a great, great time here with this guy who doesn't clobber us over the head with predictable songs, but ones of considerable texture and craft. It's rock and roll that is hooky and yet showcases very astute attention paid to not just going to those kills, but instead Roberts packs his punches by being versatile and giving, playing into what seems to be a very diverse love for all forms of song. On his latest album, "Love At The End Of The World," Roberts sounds all kinds of different from one song to another, delivering a song with a vintage southern swagger, but sounding a touch like Elvis Costello or Paul McCartney while doing it on "Fixed To Ruin." He sounds like the kind of thumping and cross country roadhouse music of Bruce Springsteen and The Hold Steady elsewhere, gives off a classic barnburner in the albums gloriously big and resounding title track and just keeps the arbitrariness going throughout. He sings, "The kids don't know how to dance to rock and roll," and that might be an indication for the lower 48 more than he'd care to admit publicly. He goes on, "We live the hustle, the keepers of the backbeat," and that seems to be exactly where Roberts lives - in that hustle and backbeat, giving himself over to the rock and roll sounds that he goes mushy for and it should be all we need to give him the time of the day and some hard-earned attention.
Sam Roberts Official Site