Dismissing Sam Luna’s music as simply folk, is really doing a disservice to it. Chicago-based Luna’s release, Under Construction, has many folk elements such as Luna’s evocative lyrics and strong melodic acoustic playing. However, the New Mexico native effectively integrates jazz saxophone and classical cello into his songs while paying a strong tribute to tradition. Furthermore, he calls on an eclectic and musically rich group of musicians to round out his albums and paint the picture of an artist on the rise.
The album took three years to record in Chicago with Greg Combs, Santa Monica with John Zambricki, Oceanside with Kellen Malloy, North Hollywood with Bastien Benkhelil and Aaron Duseterhoeft somewhere in Wisconsin. Despite the number of producers and studios, the album sounds rich, cohesive and focused.
Under Construction starts with the stark tale of the end of the romantic journey, “Doesn’t Mean a Thing.” On the track, Luna relies mostly on his guitar, his expressive and yearning voice and a touch of regret in his lyrics to start the album off. This is a good opening, but things get better and better.
“Royal Blue” hints of the love for Chicago and effectively employs piano and banjo to tell the tale of big city life and yearning for the special someone who isn’t there to enjoy it with the narrator. Things heat at little up with the song “Restless Nights,” and the lead single “Beneath the Trees” finds Luna in full gallop effectively employing violin, cello, drums and his guitar. “Mama!” brings in a full horn section and ‘up’ lyrics which belies the pleadings of the singer not to leave what he and his “mama” have worked on.
Perhaps my favorite song is the familiar tale told in “Whiskey Dreams.” The songs, full of bluesy sophistication and swagger remind us all of a low place we’ve been and don’t want to revisit. Other highlights of Under Construction include the banjo and sax driven “Where Do You Go,” the emotional duet “This Is The End” and the wistful solo effort and appropriately titled “Graciously Greeting.” “Duermete” is a perfect swan song to the album.
Under Construction doesn’t reflect a debut album but a seasoned, talented veteran and Luna’s earnest vocals and playing which leaves the listener anticipating the sophomore effort.
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