‘Greyhound Dreams’ is the sophomore album from heart-on-sleeve Suffolk singer songwriter Sam Russo. His simple, earnest style is sentimental but not excruciatingly so, and this record is a carefully considered and often moving journey through the drifting memories of a touring musician.
Even as ‘Sometimes’ begins proceedings, you imagine yourself staring out the window of a van rolling into the unknown as you listen to Sam’s words. His warm vocals are upbeat but crackle with the memory of a pained heart as he admits, “You gotta let it hurt. Cos it ain’t life if it don’t hurt.”
His gentle, tender music contains simple themes as Sam opens his book to the world rather than hiding themes between lines of poetry. It’s easily relatable, but from song to song the moods change and the themes shift to keep things interesting. ‘Small Town Shoes’ deals with ignoring negativity from those who would rather bring you down. “If you wanna go out tonight that’s what we’ll do – we’ve got nothing to prove.”
Sam’s folky, acoustic sound is very much in vogue (although to be fair he was doing it long before this was the case) and maybe it’s an unfortunate consequence of this that there are occasions when I imagine his songs playing over a tearjerking advert for Hovis, or maybe a can of beans. ‘Greyhound Dreams’ does however have enough character to set itself apart from the pack.
Singing about American states and towns feels like something Tim Barry or Rancid should be doing, but Sam manages it without seeming desperate to please. You can tell he’s drawing from real life experience rather than just trying to sound more appealing than singing about Kingston and Telford.
Things hit their stride in the second half of the album. ‘Forever West’ paints a beautiful picture of a warm conversation with an old stranger in a strange land, and ‘Moving North’ touchingly captures the balance between freedom and uncertainty of crossing the country in a clamped out old car, pursuing your dreams.
Sam Russo’s name is now regularly printed on line-ups across the UK and beyond, and ‘Greyhound Dreams’ demonstrates how he is comfortably handling the role of a respected musician, creating a confident and wise collection of tracks which will appeal to listeners across the spectrum.
‘Greyhound Dreams’ by Sam Russo is out now on Specialist Subject Records.
Words by Alex Phelan (@listen_to_alex)