Canada seems to have a never ending supply of young female song writers with big electrics, bigger voices and even bigger, more charming personalities. We’ve had the pleasure of hearing acts like Jenn Grant, Leslie Feist, and Hannah Georgas develop into stars and so routinely reach stratospheric heights that we assume it’s easy. As a result, we constantly focus the next cycle of talent, saddling unseasoned songwriters with unfair expectations, as if promise somehow means more than the present once potential is realized.
Without question (and with good reason), next in line is Calgary’s Samantha Savage Smith. A unique combination of emotion heavy guitar driven rock and contrasting but equally engaging jazz nuances, you might be tempted to think SSS paints with somewhat simple strokes, but the end results are near flawless combination of restraint and power.
Arrangements are pinned back, exposing cheekbones and stunning profiles. Guitar, beautiful organ and piano and a nice rhythm section are all essential supporting players, but it’s the voice. Oh that voice. Smoky like a high-end scotch, but fragile when asked to be, Lorrie Matheson’s production never lets you forget who the star really is. Whether Samantha is soaring over a gritty guitar anthem or floating along with a spare drum and electric melody, each verse is delivered with a surprising charisma that makes every word feels essential, every exhale vital.
Often when young women pay homage to jazz greats and iconic women of the past it comes off like sneaking into your mother’s closet and wearing her pearls and vintage ensembles to feel grown up, but SSS manages to put her own stamp on the traditional sounds. Delightfully modern and chunky when required, and certainly more mature than she has any right to be at this young age, Samantha took the time to deliver finished songs and complete thoughts.
Tough Cookie is more than just a solid collection of sounds and fresh ideas. It’s a coming out party, the great reveal. Normally when a record is this good, the questions quickly move from “who’s this?” to “what’s next?” For Samanatha Savage Smith, a young women that already seems ready to stand alongside her peers, sharing spotlights and CBC radio love, I guess all that’s left is to ask, “who’s next?”