Written by Matt DeBenedetti
The folks over at Panic State picked a winner with New Brunswick, NJ’s Sammy Kay, and his debut full-length release titled Fourth Street Singers is the reason why.
Sammy’s music is the definition of the genre of folk punk, blending soulful folk influences from Tom Waits, Bruce Springsteen, and Sam Cooke, with punk-tinged guitar tones and chord progressions. Where some artists seem to include their influences in their music to the point that it may seem unoriginal, Sammy Kay wears his proudly on his sleeve, all while adding his own twist to the music, making for an original and beautifully produced record that can now be heard here.
The album opens with the reverb washed, 1950’s swing-style drum beat of a track that seems to almost be intentioanlly written as an opener, called “You Ought To Know”. The track sets the mood of the record perfectly, while offering poetic and familiar lyrics [As I walk through the valley of the shadow of the damned] as a preview of what is to come on the remainder of the record.
From beginning to end, the collection of songs is as professional as they come, sonically, and all eleven (including one bonus) tracks have their own lyrical theme and feel, while also contributing to the overall tone of the record, which includes lyrical themes of redemption, perseverance, and dealing witht the loss of life. Kay explains about the record in an interview with PureVolume, “The record as a whole is a huge change in sound for me, and it also parallels the changes I’ve gone through since we started recording it.”
The most easily chosen highlight of the record came seventh for me, in a track called shipwreck, a ¾ timed song about the loss of love that showcases both the lyrical and vocal ability of Sammy Kay. The song maintains a slowly paced, dreary tempo while also slowly building in energy until its end.
Overall, Fourth Street Singers is what is called easy listening: the kind of music that you listen to on Sunday morning, or the kind of music you listen to after a night of drinking. It can be enjoyed by people with all kinds of musical tastes, and I can easily see it being a breakthough record for an artist who deserves more attention than he is getting.
I give this record an 8.5/10, and would recommend it for fans of Bruce Springsteen, The Hold Steady, or The Gaslight Anthem with whom Sammy Kay will be on a national tour from March 3rd- 28th.