Singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Sam Pointer has absorbed American musical traditions like a sponge, and he mixes them together into a rich gumbo of feel-good songs that sound familiar yet fresh. This stringed instrument wizard has played or recorded with acts in styles ranging from classic rock to bluegrass to soul to Irish folk. Now he has built a growing following in the Southeast as a solo acoustic performer. His debut original album “What Good Is Money“ is reaching a wider audience, showcasing his songwriting (from wry humor to heart-rending to just pure fun), his engaging baritone vocals, and his lightning-fingered playing of nearly all the instruments on the album.
As a multi-instrumentalist and lover of many styles of music, Sam has a deep and varied history as a frontman, band member, and sideman. Since 2019 alone, he has released:
- his first album of original material, “What Good Is Money”,
- a live “Acoustic Christmas” album leading a band of Alabama all-stars, and
- two albums and an EP with the original folk trio Hitchhiking Honeymoon (“Among the best of 2020” – Sundilla Music Hour/PRX).
Along the journey, he has:
- Toured as lead guitarist/singer/songwriter for groundbreaking jam band New Potato Caboose in the early 90’s.
- Appeared on recordings by Grammy winners The Temptations, Emmy winner/Grammy nominee Christopher Hedge, Rebecca Frazier, Gabriel Tajeu, Jason Bailey, George Scherer, Paul Weber, Laughing Man, Eric Beattie, Snakes in the Grass, and others (variously on acoustic, electric, and slide guitar, mandolin, bass, banjo, & fiddle).
- Won the songwriting contest at North Carolina’s MerleFest.
- Performed widely as a solo acoustic act, and at times fronting The Sam Pointer Band and smaller ensembles.
- Performed with bands including Rollin’ in the Hay (renegade bluegrass), Black Jacket Symphony (classic rock), Shillelagh Law (Irish folk), The Quad Dogs (classic rock), Snakes in the Grass (traditional bluegrass), Electric Monkeywrench (Grateful Dead tribute), Bonus Round (dance-pop), and many others.
- Performed unique concerts including a Rolling Stones tribute on lead guitar/fiddle/mandolin with Black Jacket Symphony (with a full album cover of “Let It Bleed”); a John Hartford tribute Sam created and led on banjo/fiddle/guitar (with a full album cover of “Aero-Plain”); a tribute to classic Alabama artists; a solo show of Irish traditional music; and others.
Sam’s debut solo album of original material, “What Good Is Money”, was released January 2021. It’s a lively tapestry of Americana, woven from threads of jam rock, bluegrass, rockabilly, Caribbean, Celtic, and blues. He recorded it in his home studio during the 2020 pandemic, playing nearly all the instruments himself. He is joined on some songs by stellar guests: Red Redling on piano (New Potato Caboose), Eddie Hartness on congas (Eddie From Ohio), Mark Lanter on drums (Black Jacket Symphony), and Gary Wheat on tenor sax (Chad Fisher Group).
Says Sam, “this album pays homage to a lot of my influences, especially ones from classic rock styles. The songs are all original, but you can hear how my music has been shaped by artists like Little Feat, Paul Simon, Dire Straits, Jerry Garcia, the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, John Prine, and Bob Marley. Although I also play a lot of acoustic music, this album is mostly a band album with electric guitars, bass, and drums. It touches on multiple different Americana styles but they all seem to hang together, like the cousins at a family reunion!”
The New Orleans-sounding title track, with its chorus “what good is money if you don’t lay it down?”, could be an anthem to a 2021 America emerging from lockdown and gathering to have fun. The bright pop-rock song “Shoes Away” is a warm tale of finding a home, over an infectious groove with banjo and wah-wah guitar. Sam says of the tongue-in-cheek roots-rocker “Why Pierce That”, “I co-wrote that with my refrigerator magnets! That title popped out, and from there the song just about wrote itself.” “Lonesome” is an achingly beautiful acoustic ballad of loss and longing. The epic “Winds of December” has a catchy and unusual groove, with a big pop-rock chorus, a touch of Irish fiddle in the solo, and a gospel-flavored coda. The album closes with a re-imagining of “What Good is Money”, with a high-energy band jam punctuated by key vocal phrases. “Get together!”
What’s next for Sam? He says, “after all this time away from performing during the pandemic, I can’t wait to get out and play for people again! The songs on the “What Good Is Money” album are all really fun to play live. And to bring out my more acoustic influences, I also plan in 2022 to release another album of original music, but this one featuring bluegrass and folk styles on mostly acoustic instruments.”