Samantha Martin & The Haggard Samantha Martin & The Haggard

Samantha Martin & The HaggardSamantha Martin & The Haggard
The first thing that hits you is the voice. Samantha Martin's is a force of nature, one of those voices that grabs you by the throat while causing the hairs on the back of your neck to tingle. The likes of her friend Serena Ryder and Janis Joplin come to mind as reference points. Further listens to this compelling second album by the Toronto, ON-based Martin reveal that she is a hell of a songwriter also. Nine strong originals are nestled alongside four covers. To these ears, the reggae-ified version of the much tackled "The Last Thing On My Mind" doesn't quite work, but that's a rare miss. Martin has a refreshing disregard for genre pigeonholing and the numbers here cover blues, gospel, country and early rock'n'roll territory. She is very ably assisted by her versatile and tight band, the Haggard, featuring one former (Greg Sweetland) and two current members (Pete Lambert and Mikey McCallum) of the Kensington Hillbillies. Derek Downham (the Beauties) adds keyboards, while backing vocals by the likes of Amoy and Ciceal Levy, and Alejandra Ribera add to the full-blooded sound of most of the cuts. John Dinsmore (NQ Arbuckle) co-produced with the group at his Lincoln County Social Club studio, keeping things sounding fresh and unforced. The album gains momentum as it progresses, ending with two knockout tracks. The gospel-infused Martin original "Six White Horses" possesses dramatic power and is followed by a gorgeous, one-take, sparse version of "You Are My Sunshine." This truck driver's daughter is the real deal. (Dollartone)