Sam Doores Creates Dreamy New Orleans Music By Way of Berlin

Photo: Sarah Danziger / Courtesy New West Records

The new solo album by the Deslondes' Sam Doores is a beguiling brew of old rock 'n' roll and New Orleans R&B, with a hint of Berlin experimentalism.

Sam Doores
Sam Doores

New West

13 March 2020

Naming an album after yourself can be a tricky business. If an artist truly wants listeners to associate a collection of music with their name, that music better be distinctive. It better live up to the name. Sam Doores' self-titled album more than fulfills that promise. Sam Doores deftly pulls together old rock 'n' roll, classic New Orleans-style R&B, and strains of folk and country, along with some experimental touches. The result is a subtly enveloping album that pulls a listener further into its noirish mysteries with each listening.

In his introduction to a recent PopMatters interview with Doores, Jedd Beaudoin notes: "Perhaps not since Los Lobos' Kiko has an artist so effortlessly married avant-garde and everyman sensibilities, arriving at a place where childlike curiosity meets the fruits of patient practice and ambition. Deep knowledge and unbound imagination coexist peacefully, happily, throughout." Invoking Kiko, which would certainly be on my shortlist of best albums of the last 30 years, when writing about a new album is a daring move, but Beaudoin's comparison is on the money. Sam Doores might not reach the practically stratospheric heights of Los Lobos' 1992 masterpiece. Still, any song from Doores' album would sound wonderful juxtaposed with anything from Kiko, on what would clearly be a killer playlist of cosmic American music.

Doores, who is a member of New Orleans band, the Deslondes – and has also worked with Hurray for the Riff Raff – found himself writing a series of songs that didn't seem to fit within those band contexts. Over a few years, Doores recorded the songs at producer Anders 'Ormen' Christopherson's WSLS Studios in Berlin, Germany. While the songs generally feel rooted in American rock 'n' roll and R&B, Christopherson's production has hints of the experimentation that artists from David Bowie to U2 have found in Berlin recording settings.

Sam Doores opens with a brief, gentle instrumental, "Tempelhofer Dawn" that establishes a dreamy mood, without getting too specific about subsequent musical direction. The second track, "Let It Roll" is a welcoming ballad, enveloped by a gospel organ. Lyrically, the humanistic song invites us all to show empathy to those who have "Been walking all around / With their heads hanging down", to "Show them love / Show them laughter / Show us a sign." Doores closes the song with a sentiment that simultaneously feels timely and timeless: "Cause when we're really lovin' / We ain't afraid of dyin'."

Unique combinations of instruments set the mood on any given song. For example, Doores and company play percussion, acoustic and 12-string guitars, vibraphone, glockenspiel, organ, bass, auto-harp, and trombone to create the reverie within "Cambodian Rock N' Roll". Sometimes, as on "Wish You Well", Doores adds a woozy horn section – in this case, cornet, tuba, trombone, and tenor sax – to conjure the New Orleans vibe that permeates the entire album. A close reading of the credits will show further evidence of the wide range of instruments Doores uses to create the overall feel of Sam Doores.

While Sam Doores is certainly a moody album, there is also a level of jauntiness that courses throughout the record, particularly on "Had a Dream" and "This Ain't a Sad Song". As New Orleans-inspired music goes, Sam Doores isn't what you're likely to hear while you're sucking down frozen hurricanes on the most touristy blocks of Bourbon Street. But hearing Sam Doores emanating from a dusty old jukebox while enjoying a shot or two in a local joint a few blocks away from the French Quarter? Now, that would be perfect.





Paul Weller - "Earth Beat" (Singles Going Steady)

Paul Weller's singular modes as a soul man, guitar hero, and techno devotee converge into a blissful jam about hope for the earth on "Earth Beat".


On Point and Click Adventure Games with Creator Joel Staaf Hästö

Point and click adventure games, says Kathy Rain and Whispers of a Machine creator Joel Staaf Hästö, hit a "sweet spot" between puzzles that exercise logical thinking and stories that stimulate emotions.


The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 1, Gang of Four to the Birthday Party

If we must #quarantine, at least give us some post-punk. This week we are revisiting the best post-punk albums of all-time and we kick things off with Gang of Four, Public Image Ltd., Throbbing Gristle, and more.


Alison Chesley Toils in Human and Musical Connectivity on Helen Money's 'Atomic'

Chicago-based cellist, Alison Chesley (a.k.a. Helen Money) creates an utterly riveting listen from beginning to end on Atomic.


That Kid's 'Crush' Is a Glittering Crossroads for E-Boy Music

That Kid's Crush stands out for its immediacy as a collection of light-hearted party music, but the project struggles with facelessness.


Percival Everett's ​​​'Telephone​​​' Offers a Timely Lesson

Telephone provides a case study of a family dynamic shaken by illness, what can be controlled, and what must be accepted.


Dream Pop's Ellis Wants to be 'Born Again'

Ellis' unhappiness serves as armor to protect her from despair on Born Again. It's better to be dejected than psychotic.


Counterbalance No. 10: 'Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols'

The Spirit of ’77 abounds as Sex Pistols round out the Top Ten on the Big List. Counterbalance take a cheap holiday in other people’s misery. Right. Now.


'Thor: Ragnorak' Destroys and Discards the Thor Mythos

Taika Waititi's Thor: Ragnarok takes a refreshingly iconoclastic approach to Thor, throwing out the old, bringing in the new, and packaging the story in a colourful, gorgeously trashy aesthetic that perfectly captures the spirit of the comics.


Alps 2 and Harry No Release Eclectic Single "Madness at Toni's Chip Shop in Wishaw" (premiere)

Alps 2 and Harry NoSong's "Madness at Toni's Chip Shop in Wishaw" is a dizzying mix of mangled 2-step rhythms and woozy tranquil electronics.


Kathleen Grace and Larry Goldings Team for Wonderfully Sparse "Where Or When" (premiere)

Kathleen Grace and Larry Goldings' "Where Or When" is a wonderfully understated performance that walks the line between pop and jazz.


Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.


New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.


Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.


Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.


New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.


'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.


Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.


Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.


M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.

Collapse Expand Reviews
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.