Track Review: Sam Lambeth: When I’m With You

‘While the reflective lyricism finds a place in your head, the authentic musicality finds a place in your heart.’

Intro to Sam Lambeth
Previously garnering acclaim for ‘When Love Ain’t Enough’ (2020) and ‘The King (You and Me)’ (2021), today sees UK singer-songwriter Sam Lambeth deliver a track that solidifies him as a force to be reckoned with. Providing the perfect contrast to the driven sound of that more recent single, ‘When I’m With You’ truly harnesses the ballad-esque side of what Sam describes as ‘a dusty slice of Americana.’ However, while these influences are clearly evident from the get-go, the storytelling is much more open to interpretation: ‘Lyrically, the song represents doubt, excitement, fear, and contentment. It can mean something different to everybody. It’s about the decisions we make, right or wrong, and the paths we take.’ With his solo career relaunching only last year, you may very well consider him to be new to the musical game. And in terms of time frame he is indeed relatively new. Nevertheless, with those aforementioned tracks leading to a sold-out headline gig, airplay across UK and American radio, and an ever-growing fan base, he has already achieved a phenomenal amount. So, if Sam Lambeth isn’t on your radar already, let ‘When I’m With You’ be your introduction to him.

Track Review
Instantly capturing the style of Sam’s new release ‘When I’m With You’, acoustic guitar makes its way into our ears first swiftly followed by piano. It’s simple, sparse, but intent-filled. The rhythmically strummed chords cause your foot to tap in the most gentle way, the sustained chords cause your body to sway, and combined together, you feel as though your worries have been carried away. In so little, so much has been delivered and filling you with a sense that simplicity will be key to the track, you soon find yourself developing a heartfelt appreciation for Sam’s musicality. 

Joining the sound with a vocal that belongs in Nashville rather than the West Midlands, opening line ‘All of my best friends, are all finding dead ends’ feels authentic, honest, and reflective. Projected with trademark husk-tinted tone, it sits well within its setting. Drawing attention in a way that perfectly matches the nature of what lies beneath it, subtle emergences of emotion come through, while vibrato adds interest in a way that is effortlessly controlled. Meanwhile, from that early harmonic stimulus, delicate piano countermelodies bring an air of romanticism without being indulgent. When you hear so many tracks that are overly complex, you really do wish more were as understated as this.

With us heading ever closer to the titular lyrics, the essence of developments being gradual very much remains. However, in each of these there is purpose and a true sense of musical understanding. Knowing what he wants to achieve, rather than introduce brand new material when electric guitar appears for the first time, its phrasing completes the piano lines. Thus, the interest isn’t generated through content, but the setting of it. The knock-on effect of this being that it doesn’t distract, but enhance. Furthermore, in both the melodic fragments and strumming patterns transforming to synchronise – both rhythmically and tonally – with the vocal hook ‘When I’m with you I don’t care’, the most wonderful realisation of Sam’s songwriting prowess occurs. 

‘The song began as a challenge – to write a song with a few different chords.
I’d been using the same four chords for so long I named my tongue-in-cheek Best Of after it.
This time, I wanted things to be a bit fresh, a bit different.
That’s when those words came to me…when I’m with you, I don’t care.’
[Sam Lambeth]

Providing a hint of sonic expansion, before heading back into verse content the formerly distant guitar is given a chance to truly shine. Causing cinematic montages and nostalgic moments to fill your head, this brief change of atmosphere is glorious. Harnessing true Americana tendencies, and riding above the genteel accompaniment in a touchingly expressive manner, you may expect, perhaps even yearn for it to go further. However, its purpose isn’t to be a full solo, but instead guide us back to the storytelling which, in being perfectly placed, is exactly what is achieved.

Enhancing the sensations felt so far, as we progress through the second half of the track you find yourself being increasingly drawn to not just the standard of musicality, but the subtlety of it too. Highlighting this beautifully, lines such as won’t come back again’ find a place in your head, while the delivery, with the softest of harmonies find a place in your heart. Taking this into the instrumental elements, sustained strings enhance the ever-present film-esque nature, while the opportunities to further experience stylistic electric guitar as it emulates vocal melodies are ones to truly savour. Honestly, they really are.

Pushing the sense of true beauty being found within simplicity right through to the end, rather than the storyline being continuous space is provided for us to fully enjoy what has been the musical undercurrent. However, rather than these breaks in the vocal interrupting the flow, they encourage moments of thought-filled self-reflection.

Occurring initially after the phrase ‘Is that only on my own?’, greater emphasis brought to that very line. Gently surging brushed drums work alongside melodic piano and barely audible ‘la’s’, strengthening sensations of romanticism and nostalgia. And then as Sam’s lyrics return, they infuse with the softest vocal echoes and take us to the most authentic final moment. If this is only a sign of things to come, there is no doubting the level of success that’s on the horizon.

‘When I’m With You’ by Sam Lambeth is out now.

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