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Finally! It’s probably the exclamation that soulful singer-songwriter Samm Henshaw was expressing when his debut EP, The Sound Experiment was released The EP was delayed twice with release dates scheduled early this year and then moved to July before finally being available this past Friday. It’s an album that we’ve been anxiously waiting to hear, as we’ve featured Henshaw on three occasions. The wait, though, was worth it.
Like Benjamin Booker, Leon Bridges, and Steven A. Clark before him, Henshaw has put his own spin on classic genres – from soul to gospel to blues to R&B – often combining two of these genres together. The album, though, opens with a teaser – almost a curveball. “Temptation – Intro” is a mix of hip hop and R&B that gives the indication that maybe this album will be more like R. Kelly than Otis Redding, but those concerns are alleviated immediately with the gospel-R&B of “Autonomy (Slave)”. A powerful song about moving on and not being tied to past ills, the track is Henshaw’s finest songwriting effort on the EP. “Everything” is another example of Henshaw’s maturity and fine songwriting. The blues orientation of the song supports Henshaw’s observations about greed and materialism that inflict us all. These aren’t lyrics you expect to hear from a 35-year old singer-songwriter let alone a 21-year old, emerging artist like Henshaw.
“Redemption”, the first “official” release from the EP follows. This gospel-soul number is remarkable for the emotions it elicits despite its subtlety and quietness. The song relies upon on Henshaw’s emotive voice, the backing vocals of a choir, a rhythmic clap, the taunt plucks of the acoustic guitar, and the occasional harmonica. It is the most down-to-earth and spiritual track on the album, yet arguably its most powerful. It is Henshaw displaying immense maturity as an artist, recognizing that even the quietest songs can be moving.
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Henshaw, though, does have a love ballad in his arsenal, which you would expect from a young musician. The Babyface-esque “Better” is tender and smooth with very few bells and whistles. The track mostly revolves around Henshaw’s voice, which hits several registrars in just over three minutes. It’s a gorgeous and stunning track with a fantastic second half. If you’re planning a wedding or need to apologize to your loved one, spin this song and let Henshaw do the romanticizing.
The album finishes with a song that Henshaw shared nearly a year ago – “Only Wanna Be With You”. On this version, Henshaw shares a piano-only, acoustic version. While the song focuses on a love interest, the person of interest could also be a mother, grandmother, or anyone close. If the other five songs didn’t convince you that Henshaw was well on his way to be the next John Legend, then this one should. The talent, range, and potential that Henshaw has is enormous. It makes you wonder why The Sound Experiment was delayed for so long because no matter what time of year Henshaw’s music is timeless.
The Sound Experiment is out now via Sony Music Entertainment UK. It’s only available in the UK as a download, but it should be in online and physical stores in North America in the very near future. In the meantime, stream it below (via Spotify).
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