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Serious Sam Barrett

Heartfelt tales and earnest yarns that echo from Leeds to Mississippi. Serious Sam Barrett's eponymous second album is a passionate group of songs that ramble and roam with sincere honesty. A record submersed in a mix of Blind Willie McTell, Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan and a thousand more guitar-playing troubadours. Mr Barrett's musical vision is very much stripped down to the bare bones, relying mostly upon his twelve-string guitar and vocal ability to deliver personal stories and experiences.

Serious Sam Barrett's style of music may come across as quite alien to modern ears at first in that it is soaked in nostalgia. This mood soon passes as your ears gradually begin to recognise the subtle details contained within each arrangement. The listener is left with the impression that there is no guitar line or lyric that is wasted. A very noticeable change from Serious Sam Barrett's first full-length album Close To Home is that he appears more comfortable in his singing ability. On Close To Home, he seemed to jump from a Yorkshire vernacular to Dylanesque-like phrasing which resulted in the music sounding conflicted. Some slight Dylan references do still creep in, but not in a way that seems intended.

The choice of sparse instrumentation gives the compositions immediacy and clarity. This minimal approach also allows Mr Barrett the perfect opportunity to display his technical control and fluid skill on the guitar. Whether the music requires a delicate or abrasive touch he seems to manage this task with utter aplomb. There are some examples however, in tracks like 'Hurry Back', 'Spiderweb Frame' and 'Streetlights' that do have a subtle use of a banjo or slide guitar to add an extra dimension.

Mr Barrett has created a set of simple and concise songs, but this is the record's major flaw. The use of little musical variation results in the tracks becoming repetitive. In a live setting, it is possible to imagine these compositions having a bewitching effect over the audience, but they fail to sustain attention across a whole record. Sam Barrett should well be applauded for his talent and his unwavering use of traditional styles over modern recording techniques. The recording industry needs artists who refuse to compromise their artistic integrity, but the music may have had more impact as two EPs rather than an album.