EP Review

Sam Sweeney & Louis Campbell – Shapes: EP Review

Next in a series, Sam Sweeney switches from solo to duo with an inspired partnership.

Release Date: 5th May 2023

Label: Hudson Records

Format: digital (Bandcamp)

The next in the planned series of releases following the Solo release just over a year ago. The next logical step from so is naturally to step up to a duo.

A musician who’s likely to be spoilt for choice when selecting a new musical partner (consider on whom Sam could have – and has in the past – called), the relatively unknown but hugely honoured Louis Campbell gets the nod. ‘Relatively unknown’ we may say, yet a young musician whose star and status are firmly in the ascendency, soaring serenely into the firmament. In fact, serene is the word that we should settle upon when taking in the wonders of Shapes.

The duo have, of course, played together on Sam’s lovely Escape That album which we rated extremely highly, particularly when it was brought to life supporting the Bellowhead tour at the end of 2022. The latter experience perhaps the real catalyst for the fledgling duo.

We commented on the intimacy of the Solo EP; how Andy Bell had captured that genuine ‘live in your living room’ feel, and Shapes continues in a similar vein. If it ain’t broken why fix it? Expertly recorded by Andy Bell (surely the equivalent of the fifth Beatle), the location of St Martin’s church in Stoney Middleton in the Peak District seems inspirational – actually just a stone’s throw from Eyam, the ‘plague village’ and fascinating place to visit…

There’s a satisfying continuation of the artwork theme on an EP that sees the duo expounding on Sam’s Unearth Repeat formula – taking the rough melodic shapes of traditional tunes from 18th-century manuscripts and then inserting their own notes, time and key signatures and rhythms.

The electricity and joie de vivre of Escape That is replaced by a, yes, a complexion of sheer serenity throughout the five arrangements. Ingeniously titled Shape#1 through 5 (with what I presume is the musical key in brackets) plus Psalms, the six tracks find the duo caressing their instruments in complete harmony to create charming moods. Music for relaxed contemplation, the occasional sway is the only concession to some of the more frenetic bursts of which both are more than capable. A disciplined restraint is the order of the day. Shape#5 perhaps the most guilty of any sort of nod to nudging a rolling cadence.

While retaining a sincere passion, we simply can’t call on the terms vigorous or fizzing. Just moments of a beautiful bliss and majesty. We can confidently confirm Sam’s assessment of Louis’ sensitivity in accompanying his senior partner. Always there, never showboating or intruding but supporting and complementing. His contribution, particularly in the intro, to Shape#3 is almost indiscernible, the lightness of his touch a rare thing.

It feels like a seed has been planted,” says Sam, “and I can’t wait to see what grows from it.” From the results of the last twelve months, it’s fair to say that the partnership has had a healthy shot of Miracle-Gro and is already flourishing, nudging at those looking out for a strong contender when it comes to giving awards for ‘best duo’.

Here’s a taster:

Sam Sweeney online:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Bandcamp

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