With a songwriters poise and a natural sense of folk and country musicality, Violet Road is a far superior collection of songs to Sam Newton’s debut Set In Stone, which hinted at his potential.
Newton focuses on a couple of themes on the album. Most prominently there’s a trio of songs (‘Hold You Down’, ‘Homesick’ and ‘The Circle Can Be Broken’) that take varied approaches to the subject of mental health; dealing with depression and malaise of the mind rather than affairs of the heart. Newton approaches the songs with an unflinching and directness as if he’s made a concerted effort to distil his ideas and lyrics to their most economic form and he’s achieved just that.
Elsewhere he continues to apply sweet melancholy, with languid and lilting brushstrokes, to cautious navigations into a relationship, a brutally honest address to a sibling, a straight lovestruck confession and a convict death ballad. It isn’t until we get to the penultimate and catchy title track that the pace quickens with its wordy bluegrass rattle and strum.
Newton’s voice is distinctly Australian in the way he allows his natural accent to bleed through the words and the arrangements ensure there is plenty of space for his stories – real and imagined – to resonate clearly. The only lingering feeling is that he’s played it too safe and more heart-wrenching emotional intensity might have elevated the songs further. Regardless this is a very strong album from a songwriter clearly refining his craft, one song at a time.
this review was first published in Rhythms magazine