Music Review: Dave Sampson - No Pressure, No Diamonds

Where do they keep coming from? Strong East Coast songwriters, I mean. Wave after wave of them keep hitting the shores, and the latest batch is filled with talent: Breagh MacKinnon, Dylan Guthro, Carleton Stone, Mo Kenney, Brianna Gosse, Babette Hayward, etc., etc. There's lots of mentoring going on, some with Gordie Sampson, others with Joel Plaskett or Chris Kirby, and a ton of co-writing. Add to the list Dave Sampson, yet another Nova Scotia pop/rock writer. He's 25, and started out doing open mic nights at St. .FX, where we built up a strong local reputation. He's one of the members of the Gordie Sampson Song Camp (but no relation to the boss), an invitation-only gathering of some of these breakout writers, including Kenney, Stone, Molly Thomason and others. Other Sampson's guidance, they work together on material, and put on showcases at major events like music conferences, and keep getting better and better.

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Dave Sampson's debut includes numbers written with lots of these folks, , including Gordie, the executive producer here, and Stone and Guthro, the producers and pals. On the nine tracks here, he goes from folk to fun. The title cut is a bit like a David Myles number crossed with Joel Plaskett, lots of modern production sounds and a light-hearted tone: "It's the weekend on the East Coast, got a little crazy last night/woke up in the backseat of a rowboat, no clothes, no phone, and comatose". These Days, written with Kenney, has a lot of drive, moving forward on Guthro's mandolin and Jason Mowery's fiddle, and would make a great Avett Brothers cut. He can do the ballad thing too, and has a smooth, reassuring voice. I like the production here, it's not cluttered, and the vocals stand out along with a couple of key instruments on each cut. The lyrics are well-crafted throughout, with good stories, everyday language and no clunky rhymes. This song camp is obviously working out, all I ever learned at camp was a bunch of crafts with paper plates, glue and popsicle sticks. Oh, and I wandered into some poison oak.

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About Bob Mersereau

Rockin' BobBob Mersereau has been covering music, and the East Coast Music Scene since 1985 for CBC. He's a veteran scene-maker at the ECMA's, knows where the best shows and right parties are happening, and more importantly, has survived to tell the tales. His weekly East Coast music column is heard on Shift on Radio 1 in New Brunswick each Wednesday at 4'45. He's also the author of two national best-selling books, The Top 100 Canadian Albums (2007) and The Top 100 Canadian Singles (2010).

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