Review Archive

‘The No Testament’ from Sam Carter - profoundly felt, deep-rooted emotion

(August 23, 2012)

Song writers transfer some part of themselves into their songs, Sam Carter pours in heart and soul, Sam Carterwhich is why his almost spiritual songs touch the deepest part of you. That’s why ‘The No Testament’ from Sam Carter is a mine of profoundly felt, deep-rooted emotion. For many it’s the longed for follow-up to his debut album ‘Keepsakes’, for those unfamiliar with Sam’s work just accept my word for it - this is a must-listen-to slice of English folk.

Once again, there’s Sam’s mournful, incisive voice with its attention-grabbing edge, along with his sharp finger-picking that together drive the intensely written narratives. The hard hitting ‘Dreams Are Made of Money’ encompasses the fears of a generation and the ills of a society. If there’s a precise take on austerity-hit Britain then this must be it. There are two songs about loss and separation that follow each other on the album - ‘The One’ with its acid sharp lyrics that cut to the bone with barely disguised emotion as experience is passed from father to son, and were that not enough pain there’s ‘Separate Ways’ with its observation of the achingly desperate promise not to take sides in a break up.

Sam’s interest in American spirituals, gospel songs and shape-note hymn singing (used in America to help singers find pitches within major and minor scales) are reflected throughout in the construction of these songs. Perhaps that’s one source of the inherent spiritual engagement and the precise emotional hooks offered by these songs. To reinforce the point The Neasden Sacred Harp Singers bring their presence to the opening chant 'Antioch' and the eponymous ‘The No Testament’ with its commanding charisma and a ripping vocal from Sam.

The emotional pressure changes direction but never relaxes its hold with ‘As Long As You Hear Me’ – if there’s a more matter-of-fact complete love song then I have yet to hear it: “One day it won’t be so easy, one day I’ll struggle to get up, out of my chair, but if you’re still here I’ll be alright.” There’s also some heavy blues-induced magic in the guitar-driven harmonica-embellished power of ‘Waves & Tremors’ – slightly inconsistent with the rest of the album but ultimately a perfect fit; much in the same way as the pure undiluted Americana of 'Garden Hymn' finds its place.

‘The No Testament’ offers a wealth of personal observation on life and love that everyone experiences. It’s a tough listen because the mounting anguish in some of the songs can make the tears hard to hold back but you really should listen because you’ll find something exciting.

The musicians on ‘The No Testament’ are Sam Carter (guitars, vocals) Matt Ridley (double bass, bass guitar) Sam Nadel (drums) Will Pound on harmonica Sam Sweeney (violin, viola) Kit Massey (Hammond organ) Will Pound (harmonica) and Helene Bradley (vocals).

‘The No Testament’ releases on 3 September 2012 (Cap003) distributed by Proper Music.

Reviewer: Tim Carroll

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