It has taken Samantha Martin a little while to find the right musical vehicle for her astonishingly powerful, force-of-nature voice. She has worked within various roots music styles, taking a roots-rock approach with earlier group Samantha Martin and the Haggard. With current group Delta Sugar she has settled upon a soul meets blues meets gospel hybrid in which that voice is the key instrument.
The unorthodox group lineup (no rhythm section) features Martin on acoustic and resonator guitar, main collaborator Mikey McCallum on electric guitar and Sherie Marshall and Stacie Tabb on backing vocals. Martin's vocals often have a Joplin-esque intensity, but thankfully they never slip into histrionics territory. The stage is set with the slow-burning soul of opening track "Give Me Your Mercy," followed by "Addicted" and "When You Walk Away," one of many killer slow sad ballads. Just when the record comes close to bogging down, Martin ups the pace with "Don't Shoot" and the hand-clapping fervour of "One More Day" and gospel glory of "Take Us Swiftly Home."
It's fitting that a highlight track here is "Mississippi Sun," (reprised from last year's EP of that name) for that's the state that spawned much of the music that has impacted Martin. McCallum's fluent guitar especially shines on "I Won't Justify," while master engineer/mixer Peter J. Moore (Cowboy Junkies) balances the sounds nicely. Sung a cappella in three-part harmonies, "Tell The Heavens" closes out the album in riveting fashion. The collection of songs (all Martin originals) could have used one or two faster-paced numbers to add variety, but Send The Nightingale stands as a fine showcase of a major talent. (Independent)