Louisville, Kentucky singer-songwriter Sam Filiatreau sounds like a typical young, white, middle-class, heterosexual guy looking for love and meaning in a big old goofy world. He doesn’t want to set the world on fire. The songs on his self-titled, acoustic debut album modestly suggest Filiatreau understands that life is bigger than just him and his friends, but that’s all he really knows. He sticks to writing about his thoughts, feelings, and experiences.
There are a lot of mini silences on the record. Filiatreau will frequently stop singing or playing in the middle of a line or verse and let the quiet reign for a brief moment before continuing. That gives the impression that the performer is reflecting on what is being said or emotion felt. Or maybe that he’s just stoned. It doesn’t matter. The effect is the same. Filiatreau’s delivery allows the listener to identify with the song’s persona. We think and feel with him as part of the aesthetic process.
Hence, the album has an intimate ambiance, which is further enhanced by the way it was created. Filiatreau recorded the album in three days with Caamp’s Taylor Meier (drums) and Matt Vinson (bass) in a cabin in the woods near Athens, Ohio. One can easily imagine the three guys hanging out and goofing around as well as playing instruments. Some other musicians dropped in as well during that time. The friendly interplay between musicians is clear, although Filiatreau is always in the lead.
The eight songs here take up a total of about 23 minutes, the shortest (“Hold the Door”) just over one minute, the longest (“Fine By Me”) at 4:15. The brevity of the album contributes to its informality. There is something relaxed and comfortable to the effort, especially on such songs as “Ashes” and “El Camino” when the singer casually croons colloquial lines like “They can kiss my ass” and “You look so mean in that El Camino”. This is not highbrow stuff. The vernacular expressions add to the authenticity of the lyrics.
There’s no central theme to the record. The songs are tied together mostly by Filiatreau’s voice and acoustic accompaniment. In a somewhat ironic sense, what makes this album stand out is that there is nothing boastful. The style has its roots in the folk Americana of the 1970s. It could be Neil Young singing about growing up or John Prine and eating peaches or Townes Van Zandt needing love—influences Filiatreau has cited. This album offers homage to music from the past. Yet this is not retro. Filiatreau makes it new again. The music’s pedigree may be clear, but there is also something eternally contemporary about a voice and a guitar.
When songs talk about letters never sent, planting gardens, or just being crazy, one is in familiar territory. Filiatreau takes us there as if we never left. One wishes the visit would take longer than 23 minutes. This debut album serves as a promising introduction to a new talent.