Sam Outlaw’s debut album, Angeleno, is a pretty optimistic set of songs, for the most part.
The Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter (Outlaw was his mother’s maiden name, if you’re wondering) gets laughs from the woozy honky-tonk misery of “Jesus Take the Wheel (and Drive Me to a Bar)” and dishes potent-but-sensible relationship advice in “Keep It Interesting.”
Angeleno was produced by L.A. session wizard Ry Cooder along with his son, drummer Joachim Cooder, and feels mostly like an audio representation of that sun-kissed locale with easygoing, fingerpicked guitars and mariachi horns. Sam calls it “SoCal Country” to give it a sense of place and distinguish it from the harder-edged sounds coming out of Nashville right now.
“It was really that Southern California singer/songwriter troubadour-era tradition that is as much a part of what I do as hard-core honky-tonk music is,” Sam says.
But there’s a dark side to the album that creeps through the cracks in the funny songs as well as the mournful ones, like “Ghost Town,” which was written in the wake of a family tragedy. Sam’s parents divorced when he was an adult, his mother passed away shortly after and suddenly the home he had once known no longer existed.
“There’s nothing funny about that at all,” he says, “but in all of these things, you look for God’s grace to get through them and hopefully get to the point where you see that pain is a part of life.”
The song’s video, which you can view below, puts Sam in grimy industrial Los Angeles, apart from the glamour and glitz of the city. Check it out, and be sure to give Angeleno a listen.