The Finnish soul man Sam Huber’s latest album is a double released in two parts, one a Gamble and Huff sweet soul music sound of Philadelphia redux, Up as in the sound is very positive, and still to be released, “Down” as in get down. “Up” is about melodies and horns, “Down” about groove and bass. The two together feels like a move from The Stylistics to Funkadelic via Isaac Hayes, held together by Huber’s voice and co-producer and writer (and director of the “Hot Summer Burning” video above) Tomás Doncker’s classic soul (not r&b) ears.
An obvious comparison to Up dropped a couple of weeks ago, An Evening with Silk Sonic (aka Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak), but where Silk Sonic is obvious in an arrogant way, Sam hear’s what he chooses from folks like The Chi-Lites if the band wasn’t based upon vocal harmony. A studied, melodic gorgeousness that Sam performs from the heights of romantic fear (“I Won’t Let You Go”) to the distraught (“You Called Me In The Morning”): the half hour, eight tracks only, plays like a shot to the heart. Sold on Sam’s voice, both a deep baritone yet a supple instrument with the reach to falsetto and undertow of sorrow that occurs whatever he sings: it’s his greatest gift as singer, he makes you feel his pain and it is one reason he is better than Bruno and Anderson, they are too egotistical to provide you with the emotional fragility Huber breaths throughout seven of the songs.
From the opening, horns that sound like a harp, and a mood fracturing romance that could be re-written as Americana with ease, the song revels in the harm it redresses. The next song, “Hot Summer Burnin'” is an outlier, neither about romantic malaise nor a tune driven track, it is a climate change protest song and it fits as a palate cleanser before the funky pop workout of uber-up “Lessons Of Love” (“together we’re going to heaven, you and I”) . “It’s A Shame” starts the darkening, the happy song about sad things, the “It’s a shame the way you hurt me” the sunny day in the song is something the woman throws away. By the time you reach “Love Game” you just don’t buy that they are going to stay together forever. Sam is being played.
The thing is, when you see Sam live on stage (here), with his brown-blonde curly hair and growly tough soul man vibe, he is a definitive rock star (which is how he is treated in Finland) but on Up he suggests the disciplined genre moves of a Babyface. If, in rap terms, Down is his Drake, Up is his Juice WRLD. It is shared sorrow. They try but they don’t make albums like this anymore. They can’t give up their ego to a band aesthetic, they can’t show their heart this way.
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