The Wexford People
Locked down, loaded and ready to rock ‘n’ roll
The Last Verse: This week, Rev Sam & The Outcasts, by Rev Sam & The Outcasts
Sammy Horner is a musician who doesn’t do things in half measures. During lockdown, over the past 12 months, the County Wexford-based songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has released two albums, various items of merchandise, a children’s book, and a graphic novel based around the lyrics of this week’s featured album, ‘Rev Sam & The Outcasts’.
Where the other lockdown album he released showcased in exemplary fashion his rootsy, folky side, this album goes down the hard rock route lock, stock and fully loaded.
Opener, ‘Who Gives A Damn’ has a spoken word intro that wouldn’t be out of place on a Twisted Sister album. Horner adopts a distinctly gritty vocal style too and the guitar sound is fantastic.
The lead break is a full-on virtuoso performance complete with the type of pseudo-classical passages that were synonymous with the likes of Randy Rhoads. It’s a very interesting track in the sense that while the guitars are dirty the backing vocals give a slight bluesy feel and the chorus is extremely memorable.
‘God Loves You Son’ boasts a stop-start repetitive guitar riff and the structure of the track is similar to the opener. Where a driving riff opens the main rhythm of the song when the vocals are introduced the accompaniment is constructed in a manner that complements the vocals.
There is a wonderfully, grungy feel to the track and in a live context this would go down a treat. The rhythm guitar underpinning the solo is fantastic and for the first section of the lead break it provides a brilliant chugging rhythm.
There is also a subtle time change in the solo that is excellent in terms of arrangement, and is very effective. The stepped structure of the solo is also very appealing and the way the music comes full circle to the original rhythm for the reintroduction of vocals is fantastic.
‘Blind Leading the Blind’ is a wonderful blues-based track that follows a basic 12-bar structure and that’s something that will always be very welcome to these ears.
It immediately invokes an image of a dirty backwater saloon set back of a highway to the horizon.
There is a lovely loose feel to the recording in general that adds to the overall appeal and that’s particularly effective on a track like this.
Blues and boogie should never be over-produced or too stringently structured and this has just the right amount of loose feel to make it come across almost like a jam. For the recording Rev Sam was joined by some formidable ‘outcasts’ in the shape of: Brother James (guitars/bass and backing vocals); Brother David (organ); Saint Boolean (drums) and ‘the Bad Habits’ composed of: Sister Joy; Sister Rebecca; Brother Graham and Old Saint Nick.
‘You Are Loved, You Are Accepted’ features a fantastic bass groove. There is a hint of old school rhythm-and-blues and the clean, reverb-laden guitar sound is excellent.
The loose, jam feel is very evident yet again and the overall groove of the song is infectious and the backing vocals are exceptional.
‘In the Name of the Father’ continues the rhythm-and-blues vibe of the preceding song but it’s set to a slightly more upbeat tempo.
It’s the type of track one could easily imagine the likes of John Mellencamp doing a cover of. There is a wonderful groove throughout the album, compounded by tracks like this.
‘Little Billy Got the Fever’ is a bruising, bluesy, mid-tempo rocker.
Think of ‘Ode to Billy Joe’, by Bobby Gentry, crossed with the swagger of the Dogs D’Amour and you’ll be somewhere close to the mark. It’s an excellent track which showcases the excellent musicianship of everyone involved.
‘Higher’ is one of the strongest tracks on the album. A stomping rhythm gives way to an impressive vocal performance and a brilliant melody. The arrangement is fantastic and the instrumentation augments the vocal delivery in a wonderful way.
‘Scars’ boasts one of the heaviest guitar riffs on the album. Musically, there are different styles touched on throughout the CD but Rev Sam’s vocals pin it all together.
‘It’s Friday Now But Sunday’s Comin” has an immensely memorable chorus and a general Gospel feel that’s fabulous.
‘There Endeth the Lesson’ brings the album proper to a close in a moody, bluesy manner and highlights the wonderful storyteller nature of Horner’s songwriting style. There are two bonus tracks on the CD, a ‘house of God’ mix of ‘In the Name of the Father’ and a ‘holy roller mix’ of ‘Higher’ which both offer alternative takes. Both are very worthy inclusions on a great album.
Review Cross Rhythms
Reviewed by Tony Cummings
Sammy Horner refuses to fit neatly into a single pigeon-hole in the music world. He is a Celtic folk singer/songwriter but he’s recorded albums with his veteran band the Electrics which are nearer punk rock than anything else. He has recorded grizzly murder ballads but also Celtic worship music to electro beats. He has played at huge festivals before tens of thousands yet is happy to play to a handful of people in a home concert.
And now that the pandemic has curtailed Sammy’s touring (he was set to undertake a visit to the US where he has a legion of supporters) the Irish veteran has recorded and released possibly his most imaginatively conceived and creatively packaged album ever. ‘Rev Sam & The Outcasts’ portrays a maverick street preacher bringing glorious good news to hoboes and hookers, but is also standing beside the disillusioned internet gazer telling her that she is already loved and accepted.
This depiction of radical evangelism is delivered through earthy, biting rock songs growled in the good reverend’s gnarled voice over dirty guitars and pounding drums (“You’re believing all those experts you’ve been reading on the inter-web/But I know that you’re too smart to let the garbage filter into your head”). ‘Rev Sam & The Outcasts’ comes (of course) via download.
But it also comes on CD, vinyl and, most attention-grabbing of all, in a full colour comic where the dog-collared rev’s lyrics and adventures are brought to life by artist Alexander Lee Bute. If you are looking for a tool for evangelism or to rediscover full throttle rock music (played by an international bunch of musicians brought together through file sharing), or if you simply want to be reminded again just how amazing Jesus’ message of forgiveness and acceptance is, this album. and comic. is for you. You can find it on Bandcamp.
Rev. Sam and the Outcasts Self-Titled Self Release
Sammy Horner is the creative source behind this album and he has been making consistently excellent music since his involvement with Scottish band, The Electrics, dating back to the 1980’s. Their Celtic Rock sound owed as much to the influence of Horslips, as it did to the Pogues and the band continues to play occasionally, dipping into an impressive back catalogue of releases. Sammy also has created quite a number of independent projects over the years, together with his ongoing activities in youth and Christian work. He has produced children’s albums and books, promoted music as integral to Celtic spirituality and involved himself in community-based congregation. Something of a renaissance man, he can look at a career that has spawned forty-plus releases to date and there are no signs of slowing down for this human dynamo.
This particular album has a gospel rock focus, under the alter ego of Reverend Sam. Horner is an ordained minister in real life so it’s a tongue-in-cheek approach and something of a parody. That’s not to diminish the music in any way however, it’s a rollercoaster ride of hard rock, some soulful blues and passionate performance. There are also two bonus tracks that are funky workouts of main tracks, In the Name Of the Father and Higher. The rocking groove of Blind Leading the Blind is a great example of the exciting arrangements here, with some superb guitar breaks and the swinging, You Are Loved You Are Accepted, grooves along with sweet harmonies and dusky vocal delivery from the Reverend.
Other tracks like There Endeth the Lesson and God Loves You Son are great examples of the tight ensemble playing, the latter including a female harmony that borrows from Sympathy For the Devil. Little Billy Got the Fever is a bluesy swamp-romp while Higher looks to hope of rising above the pressures of sin. Scars has the heavy presence of backwoods brethren and a life of struggle under the hands of cruel masters. It’s Friday Now But Sunday’s Comin’ is both vibrant and laced with a great groove, dynamic guitar, soulful background vocals, handclaps and sassy attitude.
It’s difficult to know exactly who plays on the tracks as the credits are given to – Rev. Sam (vocals), Brother James (guitars, bass and backing vocals), Brother David (organ) and Saint Boolean (drums). Superbly atmospheric backing vocals are supplied by the Bad Habits, and they are Sister Joy, Sister Rebecca, Brother Graham and Saint Nick!
No doubt, they al hide in plain sight … All songs were written by Rev. Sam and the album was recorded at Big Feet Studio in Wexford and the Monsterpop Music Factory in Glasgow. Thrilling stuff and played with both fervour and no hint of redemption in sight.
Review by Paul McGee
Sammy Horner Far Away Places Self Release
This album has been released at a time when doubt and uncertainty have gripped the World and the immediate future remains largely uncertain. Similar parallels exist to the days of the Irish Famine in the middle of the 19th Century when the potato crop failed, leading to mass starvation on a widespread scale. Ireland suffered greatly and the population reduced by two million over a period of ten years. Over a million died and a further million emigrated to other countries, many dying on their journeys, looking for better lives.
The songs featured here are linked to the stories of those times with the horror of leaving loved ones, sea crossings, famine and hunger, sickness and death, all woven into the tracks. Titles like Immigrant Eyes, These Days Will Pass, Linger Here Beside You and The Good Ship Kelly Jean tell their own stories but the hardship of the times is captured so well by the musicians and the performances of all involved.
Starting out with the voyage of faith aboard the Good Ship Kelly Jean, we are transported by Linger Here Beside You and a sentiment to hope, wrapped in the arms of a Mother’s love, as she tries to protect her children against the gathering storms.
N.I.N.A. is an abbreviation for ‘No Irish Need Apply’ and tells of the hardships faced by newly arrived immigrants in looking for meaningful work abroad. The permanence of sea voyages is summed up in The Children Of White Rock and the price paid in leaving loved ones behind. Annie Glover was an Irish immigrant who suffered execution in the Salem witch trials of the 17th Century, long before the Great Hunger had driven Irish folks across the sea to America. The song, California, looks at the numbers who claim Irish heritage and name checks many surnames in the process. Skibbereen is a lament to the great suffering of the rural population during the Great Hunger and the decimation of a proud Irish village. Hush is a beautiful atmospheric Irish air, with Kylie Horner on whistles, Sammy on guitars and vocals and Tony Silcock on drones. It’s a very affecting tune and stands at the centre of the album concept; dignity and forbearance in the face of the worst of tragedies, visited upon a people.
The Song Isn’t Singing is about the price paid by a people who found their joy of living and their collective spirit broken. Immigrant Eyes is a reality check on all that is lost in the leaving, the haunted memories of home. No Man Is An Island is a duet with Kylie and Sammy sending out a prayer for better times and a hope for community to see everyone through. Bodhran and tin whistle lifting the melody. Final song, These Days Will Pass is a rallying cry, stick together and hope springs eternal.
Recorded and produced by Sammy Horner in Bigfeet studio, Wexford, with great credit due to the ensemble of musicians who bring these songs to life. Rhys Duursma and David Holt (drums, percussion), Nick Stiverson (mandolin), Jim Devlin (guitar), David Lyon and Phil Madeira (accordion), Howard Rogers (whistles), Tony Silcock (drones), Tess Wiley, Maria Ford, Sharon Clancy, Rodney Cordner (vocals) are joined by additional gang vocals in a celebration of collaboration and a vision to acknowledge all who have passed before, paving the way for our lives of comfort and privilege. Of course, at the core of the project is multi-instrumentalist Sammy Horner and his talented wife and muse, Kylie. A work of great merit and a real testament to all involved.
Review by Paul McGee
The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
What they are saying…..
Locked down, loaded and ready to rock ‘n’ roll
Brendan Keane. Wexford People
Earthy, biting rock songs growled in the good Reverend’s gnarled voice over dirty guitars and pounding drums!
Tony Cummings Crossrythyms
What can I say? Awesome! Total surprise. Don’t know what I expected but awesome! Not unlike Alabama 3
Lyrics production musicianship, wonderful world weary tongue in cheek feel.
Andy Scarcliffe. Premier Radio UK
If Elvis had ran a store front church it might have sounded something like this!
Clive Price Media.