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Sam Grow

Love and Whiskey – 2019 (Average Joe's)

Reviewed by John Lupton

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CDs by Sam Grow

Maryland native Sam Grow touches pretty much all the usual country music themes as he steps out with this release, as the track titles confirm - in addition to the title cut, there's "Battle of the South," "Drink About That," "Boots," "God Made Small Towns"...well, you get the picture. Where Grow separates himself from the crowd of "good ole boy" modern country rockers is that he readily cites icons like Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and Eric Clapton as among his primary influences. And, in fact, while it may make the country purists squirm even a little more (nary a fiddle or pedal steel lick to be heard anywhere in these dozen cuts), Grow crosses over into blues, soul, pop, techno and even a little rap (on "Dirty It Up", with Colt Ford joining in).

The arrangements are heavily electric with a powerful, driving back line, but the mix features a number of acoustic guitar interludes that add a nice texture to the overall sound. It requires a voice with guts, and Grow has that with room to spare. He's got a clear baritone that carries over his backup with expression and conviction, a voice that doesn't invite any easy comparisons to any peers, not quite like anyone else. No slow dances. It's all at power-rock tempo, but it's good-time rockin', and Grow carries it off well.

Nine of the dozen songs are co-writes by Grow with a variety of partners, and he shows a knack for the twists and "hooks" of the country genre: "Battle of the South" pits him against his "Yankee girlfriend", "God Made Small Towns" resonates in a way similar to John Mellencamp's "Small Town" from more than 30 years ago, and "Drink About That" is, well, pretty much self-explanatory. Sam Grow isn't your average country singer - there may not be such a thing anymore - but he's more than a little fun to listen to.