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Samuel Wilbur - The Age (self-released)

6 January 2024

Lots of people claim the title of singer-songwriter, but it is a term that has lost a lot of its currency in the face of a tsunami of teenage troubadours with skinny jeans and complicated hair waxing lyrical about…well, often nothing much at all. But Samuel Wilbur was always more than merely a singer/songwriter; he is a narrator, a sonic archivist, a storyteller, a philosopher of life, and a recorder of thoughts and sentiments of the everyday person, a creator of personal songs that we can all relate to.

The Age sees him returning to a more analog approach to music making; gone are the synths and digital input that underpinned 2020’s No Time Left, and in their place, the instrumentation, sounds, and styles that sit in the more Americana or alt-country realm, an album driven more by acoustic guitars and fiddles, pianos and ukuleles.

At one end of the spectrum are songs such as “South Carolina,” a lilting, loose, and almost wilfully lazy-sounding country groove on which Wilbur hangs cascades of piano and wandering violins, an understated beat, and lush banks of harmonies. At the other, we find more upbeat and boyant movers like the Hammond-washed “Home.”

Between these points, Wilbur sets out an array of songs that wander the gamut in-between. “Take My Hand,” which sees Dani Micheale handling the vocals, is a poised and poignant slice of country-infused rock ‘n’ soul, “Karen” is bustling and driving and “Underneath Us” runs on an unexpected bossa nova beat.

But songs such as “War Crimes” unlock some of the album’s depth, a supple and sweet anti-war tune, reminding us how swiftly the perpetrators, leaders, and politicians responsible seem to be able to rewrite history and rebrand their own image. The title track itself muses on the post-death experience, especially in the face of losing friends to COVID, drugs, and gun violence in recent years.

The Age is a brilliantly deceptive album. On the surface, the music is subtle and often restrained, understated, and considered. But bend an ear deeper into the lyrics, and you find an artist with plenty to say about the state of the world. A powerful, poignant, and perfectly timed album indeed.

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