With the release of Angeleno, Sam Outlaw can rest easy knowing that he made the right decision to leave his day job (Outlaw was a former ad man). Produced by Ry Cooder and his son Joachim (who also played drums on the project), Angeleno is a record influenced by California and sounds across the board. It includes twelve tracks all penned by Outlaw himself, who assembled all-star guests to lend their talents, including Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), Gabe Wincher (The Punch Brothers), and Bo Koster (My Morning Jacket).
The songs on Angeleno deal with life and love and are filled with pedal steel, organ, fiddle, banjo and more. Outlaw’s light as air vocals, Molly Jensen’s harmonies and the album’s overall production make for a record with a laid back vibe with songs that still pack the proverbial emotional punch.
The Mexican flair of mariachis, strings and horns kick off the record with “Who Do You Think You Are,” a song about love found and then lost, as well as on the title track which reflects on a life with one’s true love.
“Keep It Interesting,” about preventing love from getting stale, is filled with fiddle as well as beautiful harmonies, while the simple acoustic strumming of “Country Love Song” effectively conveys the love he feels for the girl he left to chase his musical dreams.
Keys and pedal steel shine on “I’m Not Jealous” which tells the story of a not so faithful female who might be acting like a fool, but he doesn’t let it bother him; he’s not jealous, he’s embarrassed for her, while “It Might Kill Me” deals with the dark days after a relationship ends.
The humorous “Jesus Take the Wheel” (And Drive Me To A Bar) takes a look at a man at his lowest, drowning his sorrows at a bar, asking Jesus to guide him safely. “I’m gonna do some drinking so you should probably steer/I’m counting on you Jesus take the wheel.”
Personal favorite, “Keep A Close Eye On Me” has an emotionally charged melody that, accompanied by the vocals, moves you at your core; as does the more up-tempo “Ghost Town” which relates the story of the dissolution of a family. The emotional, thoughtful “Old Fashioned” and massively catchy “Hole Down In My Heart” round out the record.
California has a long history with country music which Outlaw continues, while at the same time helping to usher in a new era. Add Angeleno to the growing list of “Best Albums of 2015".......a place where he should find himself quite often at year’s end.
NB make sure to catch Outlaw when he comes near you. He and his band are incredibly talented, funny and engaging.