Samuel David: Press
The first track on Dangerous is a prelude, a wall of sound entitled
"Valley of the Man Kings" that bubbles up and finally explodes into
the first proper song on the album, the frenetic classic rock jam
from which this Christian themed record takes its name. Bending
guitar notes along with the stereotypes we may associate with gospel
rock, the result is a refreshing take on spiritual enlightenment
through music. Far from preachy, the tunes are intelligent and
informative, both lyrically and musically. Extremely versatile with
the guitar, David is happy to sit back and ride a bluesy groove, but
when it's time to step up and wail out a solo, he can make the
strings scream beautifully. Clearly a labor of love, there is no
doubt that a great deal of time and effort went into the recording of
this album. Listen to the sincerity in the playing and the vocals and
it becomes obvious that this is a man whose life is full of
Samuel David: Dangerous
Label: Independent Christian artist
Sound/Style: Soul-flavored and God-honoring rock/R&B, heavy on southern influences
By Steve Morley
(UMC.org)—A growing number of independent artists are putting out CDs with no support whatsoever from record labels, and along with them comes the expectation that these upstart singers and musicians are less advanced or experienced than their major (or even minor) label counterparts. While this is oftentimes the case, nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to the debut album by Nashville-based musician Samuel David. His self-produced disc, Dangerous, was a long time coming. He wasn’t exactly biding his time idly in the many years that elapsed between moving to the music Mecca of Nashville and putting the finishing touches on his collection of original songs, most of which reveal David’s longstanding relationship with both Jesus Christ and the musical vocabulary of the American south. It’s entirely possible, in fact, that others working under the independent banner might, in their more uncharitable moments, think it unfair that they are competing alongside a guitarist and songwriter with a professional resume as lengthy as David’s (available at samueldavidmusic.com). Preferably, though, his younger indie colleagues will elect to tip their caps to the determination and savvy of the silver-haired musician after hearing the meaty material he has to offer.
While David ably wears a number of hats on the project, it’s his seasoned guitar work that anchors the disc, which ranges from funky Texas-styled blues-rock (“Ain’t No Condemnation”) and breezy, harmony-laden country-rock (“Catch the Wind”) to acoustic fare with an almost Latin flair adorning lighter cuts like “Come to Me,” a comforting invitation issued by the Savior Himself. By alternating easygoing tunes with groove-oriented tracks influenced by regional musical variants including those of New Orleans, Memphis and Atlanta, David presents a well-rounded picture of his roots that doesn’t get mired in any one location for long. In fact, David uses bookend tracks to transport his fellow travellers a good deal further than the areas around and below the Mason-Dixon line. He begins with a conceptual piece, “Valley of the Man Kings,” that uses controlled chaos and dissonance to jarringly portray the clutter of the world according to humankind, and finally lands his listeners in the pastoral paradise evoked on “Highlands of Heaven,” an acoustic guitar-based piece that draws from David’s Irish bloodline but also moves freely between jazzy and introspective moods.
Because the album so successfully integrates numerous styles and sub-genres, it’s tempting to avoid the attempt to single out any highlights, but a few numbers do merit special mention. “Open Arms,” co-written by noted country artist and Grand Ole Opry star Holly Dunn, paints an inspirational picture of Jesus’ crucifixion pose as a display of welcoming hands and limbs. Positioning the song next to the title track, “Dangerous,” further emphasizes the humility and vulnerability of the Messiah. Set in the time of Christ, the song reviews the threat that Jesus posed to Rome as well as the radical nature of God’s plan to conquer death, while a propulsive southern rock backdrop and an erupting, soul-drenched chorus create the proper tone. “Supernatural All Redeeming Love” rides atop a glistening jazz-rock rhythm that, stylistically speaking, beams a dazed and disoriented Steely Dan from New York City to a church service somewhere in Alabama.
With moments like this packing out the record, musically adventurous Christians may want to give out a hallelujah, since David’s fusion of musical grit and sophistication with his untempered expressions of the Gospel is a fairly uncommon occurrence. That fact, coupled with the potential power of these songs to attract and hold ears that are unaccustomed to hearing bold Christian testimony, makes Dangerous an album that—in terms of the Kingdom advancing on Earth—lives up to its name entirely.
Steve Morley is a freelance music journalist living in College Grove, Tenn.
This review was developed by UMC.org, the official online ministry of the United Methodist Church.