Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Texas blues rocker Sam Barlow and True Blue band’s new album climbing the charts
By Christina Stock
When you think of blues singers and musicians, you might imagine them introverted, world-weary, sipping on a glass of whiskey, while lamenting lost love somewhere in a dark and cozy cafe in New Orleans or a bar in St. Louis. Indeed, those were the old stereotypes. However, today’s musicians of the American music genre aren’t playing into these characters anymore, as in the case of extrovert blues musician Sam Barlow, also known as “Big Cat Daddy,” out of Austin, Texas.
Barely in his mid-20s, Barlow is already looking back on a long career, unusual in our day and age, having started playing in clubs at the tender age of 11. In a phone interview, Barlow talked about his path into the blues, his band and his new album, “Faith in the Blues.” The album already charted at the No. 46 spot of the Top 50 Contemporary Blues Albums Chart of The Roots Music Report for the week of Nov. 28.
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“I started out playing very young, growing up in the Austin,Texas area,” Barlow said. “I started playing drums at one point and then very quickly shifted more toward a guitar focus, because I was introduced to artists like Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan and then, of course, Johnny Winter. I fell in love with blues music at a very young age. I was lucky enough to get around some people who encouraged me in that regard — other great musicians in that area.”
Barlow said that at the age of 12, he attended blues jams where he learned about stage etiquette and how to work with other musicians.
Listening to the 12 songs on the album, Barlow and his band True Blue show their aptitude in reaching fans of classic 12-bar blues, to those who prefer guitar slinging, ripping songs that make the listener want to tap their toes. The latter finding a prime example in the rendition of “Sittin’ In The Jailhouse,” which is the opening song of the album.
Barlow embraces styles from Delta to Chicago. “That is definitely something that I like,” he said. “The attempt to bring to the table, because the influences are very scattered for me, but cohesive at the same time in the way my mind works. I grew up in the church, listening to gospel music and such. All sorts of gospel music. I, of course, fell in love with blues music, I played with country bands for many, many years on the road, and I studied jazz when I was in college. So there are a lot of things that are important to me in regards to this record. The influences are diverse, but I feel they came together in a very great way.”
Ten of the songs on the new album are original, two renditions. One of them is the classic, “My Babe,” by blues legend Willie Dixon. “I tell you the story on how this song came up,” Barlow said. “I ran a blues jam — and I’m hoping to continue that at a club in El Paso, Texas for many years — before the pandemic stopped a lot of things. And so myself, and one of my very close constituents, a fellow named Blind Georgia Fattz (Daniel Bentler), we were on stage one night and decided to play ‘My Babe,’ but we wanted to put our own spin on it. We didn’t want to play it like everybody else has done it. We started calling out chords to each other; next thing you know, we had an arrangement and being that we were playing on the road together quite a bit at the time, we continued to refine that arrangement until it became what it is. I am very thankful for Miss Annika Chambers, her contribution in regards to her vocals on that song, she did such an amazing job, she’s such a wonderful person, and I am very, very happy to have gotten a chance to do that with her.”
Barlow is signed with Montrose Records LLC out of Ruidoso. Asked how this happened, Barlow said that a fellow musician gave him a heads up for a gig in El Paso to perform with MTV legend Joe King Carrasco. After the performance was over, Carrasco asked him to join the tour, which brought him to Sacred Grounds Cafe in Ruidoso. “That’s how I was blessed meeting Mr. Richard Cagle from Montrose Records,” Barlow said. “We had a conversation and became friends. Not long after that he approached me. I had a desire in my heart already to record this concept album ‘Faith in the Blues,’ so by the grace of God he reached out to me and said, ‘Hey, I want to record you.’ I said, ‘OK, but I can’t really afford it, but I’d love to do it. He said, ‘No, no, no, you don’t understand. I want to record you, I want to feature you on my label.’ That gave me a very warm feeling in my heart. I feel like I have that person who believes in my music.
“There is the Lord, the universe — they had a plan for me. So far, this plan is coming together in very beautiful ways, having the chance to work with awesome people. I have to mention, as far as the people that were involved, my brothers Joseph Seltzer on the drums, the late Tony Movsesian on bass. My best friend in the world Dave Hamilton who played some bass, Annika Chambers, Maribel Rubio, Erwin Solbach, everybody was so wonderful, I had an amazing experience recording that album. Credit and full praise to all the musicians that were involved in this recording, of course, to Montrose Records, to Richard Cagle, Michael Scott who did the photography, and John in Houston PR, who has been helping us so well and, of course, to your readers,” Barlow said.
Barlow said that he misses being on the road, but due to the pandemic he had to postpone his tour, which includes New Mexico. He said that as soon as it is safe, he will be back. “The state of New Mexico has been very good to me and I am so thankful and happy to have the ability to come over, play, entertain and sing the blues for you all.”
Asked if Barlow had visited Roswell before, he said, “I have. I played a show over there at one point. I did attend a concert of a person I’m a fan of, Texas country artist Bleu Edmundson, and my mentor, Carson Alexander was the touring guitar player for Bleu Edmundson at the time, so I drove all the way to Roswell and got a room so I could watch them play at a venue called Pecos Flavors Winery. It was a very good show.”
Barlow said that he hopes to be able to perform in Roswell next year, maybe even at the Roswell Jazz Festival.
“Faith In The Blues” is available internationally through Spotify and Pandora and has been picked up by radio stations throughout the U.S. and overseas. Downloads are available through iTunes with physical shipments available through Amazon.com.
For more information, visit sambarlow.hearnow.com or montroserecords.com.