Before I launch into this article, I feel that a disclaimer must be announced to eliminate a very awkward ‘elephant in the room’. The concept behind the ‘Random Record Revival’ series was all about revisiting an old album from our music collection, and then compiling some thoughts based upon any memories it may have provoked from the past. And here I am, pulling out this album from Torontonians Sam Cash and the Romantic Dogs, which has been in our music collection for some time, but I had never actually gotten around to listening to it. In my defense, here at Great Dark Wonder, we do purchase a large variety of music, and for some albums, it does take a while to be separated from the pack and given the attention it truly deserves. Now that this statement is out in the open, I can truly declare that this release was definitely worth the wait.
During an event earlier this year in the GTA when a well-known music chain happened to go into liquidation, we took advantage of the amazing prices for CDs and stocked up in bulk on Canadian albums that we had never previously considered. When low prices equate to low risk purchases, we came home with many albums that were set aside to be opened and filed at a later date. And with a recent ‘non-concert’ weekend, I took some time to finally go through these bags of albums and both sort and take note of what we have added to our collection. It was this time when the “Stand Together Fall Together” album grabbed my attention. I had seen the name Sam Cash recently. Where? Why was the name familiar? And then it clicked; Sam Cash had been announced as the opening act for the upcoming Lowest Of The Low album release concert at the Danforth Music Hall next month. Being just a few weeks away from this exciting event, there was no better time to become acquainted with the artist entrusted with the warm up duties for the show.
Playing this CD during my commute this week, I must have let this one play for a good 5 to 6 full rotations before being ready to put my thoughts to paper. No, it didn’t take me that long to think of something to share – it was a case of how enjoyable I found this album that I simply did not want to have to eject it from the player. My initial reaction was that Sam Cash shares a sound and style very similar to the likes of Matt Mays, Adam Baldwin, and even Ron Hawkins. Cash carries off the ‘good time folk-rock’ musician manner with ease, but separates himself from these contemporaries by presenting a grittier, almost punk-like edge to his music. Not quite dialed up to the level and intensity of say Frank Turner, but enough to appeal to my love of the ‘folk with attitude’ genre. Go ahead and listen to the opening track “Remedy,” and you’ll pick up on this immediately. Very Adam Baldwin in sound, very Lowest of the Low in rhythm, and a great introduction to the sounds of another refreshing talent that has emerged from the Toronto club scene.
Even as a studio album, Sam Cash & the Romantic Dogs perfectly recreate that ‘bar room’ vibe in several tracks across this album, with up-tempo numbers like “Something For All Of Us” to the less intense “Fall Together” and “Silly Things You Do.” I personally felt that I could close my eyes and picture being seated with a bottle of my favorite cold beverage, admiring the band up on a dimly lit corner stage playing with unbridled passion to fill a tip jar. Not wanting to stereotype this artist, however, while the up-tempo nature and dominance of the band behind him serve to promote such edginess, where Cash truly stands out is with his ability to perfectly balance his ‘punk rocker with a chip on his shoulder’ demeanor with strong vocal clarity and articulation that allows the listener a deeper appreciation for his lyrics. This is apparent in both “Talk To Me” and “Fall Together,” where the tempo decreases enough to lower your heart rate (albeit temporarily), yet retain their signature guitar driven sound that never wants to deviate from this genre.
Of all eleven tracks on this impressive album, there are two that commanded my attention the most. With the sole accompaniment of a simple chord progression from the lead guitar to set the tone for “Marquee Lights,” Cash is given the opportunity to speak to you directly with his opening lyrics, “You smell like Paris in the summertime, that’s funny ‘cause I smell like cigarettes and wine.” The theme of non-compatibility with the girl of interest runs its course through the entire track, and proves to be the perfect tale for the poet behind the microphone to share. Equally impressive is “Tall Cool Devil,” due in part to the wonderful bluesy pace and bass line that invade your senses. “We’re all mining for her cold, blue heart, hoping to study what makes her start” returns to the ‘attracted to the wrong girl’ theme. Indeed, the album liner notes see Cash acknowledge that the ‘record is largely a love letter to Toronto and a few girls’; yes, his local club scene is clearly a great source of inspiration for this material.
This album has been a delight to listen to over the last few days, and Sam Cash has quickly earned his place into my musical catalog. I am sure that he will prove to be a great choice to open for The Low next month, and Team GDW cannot wait for that weekend to roll around and find out for ourselves. If you already enjoy the likes of Ferraro, Devin Cuddy, Sam Polley, and The Balconies, then Sam Cash & the Romantic Dogs would be highly recommended.
Postscript: In the four days between writing and posting this review, I had the good fortune of meeting Sam Cash in Toronto, performing an intimate acoustic set prior to the Blue Rodeo extravaganza at Budweiser Stage. Sam performed seven tracks, including “Remedy” from this album. It was a pleasure meeting Sam, and we look forward to seeing him next month with his full band.