Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
Wowsers! It’s the voice! Mr. Outlaw has one of those one in a million voices that will serve him well in what will be a long career. By the way, Outlaw is his mother’s maiden name. How convenient is that? It isn’t just a moniker, Outlaw is a family name! That’s all great, but does the music live up to the name? The answer is an unequivocal yes. It may even surpass it. Sam is not just a great voice, he wrote and arranged all 13 songs. So not only is he is a talented singer, but the guy can write his ass off.
This is Outlaw’s sophomore album, the follow up to 2015’s Angeleno. The music is similar on Tenderheart, but maybe a little more honky tonk. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And there is nothing about Tenderheart that needs fixing. It is pretty perfect. He lists George Jones as one of his favorite singers and Sam is pretty good at writing and singing a sad country song just like Mr. Jones was.
She’s Playing Hard To Get (Rid Of) (Track 6) is a tear jerking break up song that really tugs at the heart strings. The sad pedal steel and Outlaw’s sad voice doesn’t make it easy to get through this song without shedding a tear or two. It is a very well written account of how hard break ups can be. The smart lyrics are really a great accompaniment to a song that really didn’t need any assistance at being great already.
Not all the songs are sad and slow ballads. There are also some fast sad ballads for balance. Trouble (Track 5) is a Ryan Adams-esque number that is another song about a rocky relationship. The chorus repeats the line, “You got me in trouble again”. It is a very catchy upbeat number that has some serious hit potential. Even more than that, this song will have longevity.
I have mentioned my penchant for honky tonk numbers in the past. Tenderheart does not disappoint on that front either. Some of the nicest pedal steel work I have heard in a while is present on Say It To Me (Track 9). This gets the early nod for my favorite song. I am sure that will change many times since all of the songs on this collection will be worthy contenders. The next track is another amazing honky tonk number as well. All My Life (Track 10) has twang and pedal steel all over it. Too many choices.
Better too many choices than too few. It is a good dilemma to have. Tenderheart by Sam Outlaw will require many choices for the favorite or best song. One choice that won’t be hard to make is whether or not to buy this album. That one is a no brainer. What are you waiting for?