If you value first rate singer/songwriter material and unique perspective, the bookends of Sam Green’s recording career the last eight years merit your attention. Green and his Time Machine project has brought together a cadre of musical talents enhancing his already considerable talents. Comparing the album releases from these disparate points likewise illustrates his ongoing consistency and development as both a songwriter and overall artist. 2018’s Ten Parts of the Journey is a collection available on Spotify, is an impressive recent document of his artistic progress.
The muted tone and ghostly pallor of Ten Parts of the Journey’s opener “I Carry the Load” made an immediate positive impression. The small cracks rife in Green’s voice never hinder his musicality and, indeed, gives him the quality of someone who has born the load for another bloodied but unbowed. It has an obvious debt to classic country, complete with understated pedal steel, but never sounds cheap or cookie-cutter. His social concerns are evident during the track “By the Side” but an abiding characteristic of Green’s songwriting in this vein is its lack of dogmatism. He essentially approaches such material from a humanist slant. The musical character of this track, however, owes more to traditional folk than the first track’s country leanings.
The impassioned quasi-balladry of “Albert and Bob” benefits from several strengths. The marriage of percussion and light organ accompaniment are the song’s chief musical pillars. Green’s production, however, accentuates his vocals in the mix and it highlights some of his finest lyrics. “One Pot Screamer”, despite its inscrutable title, is another peak. Green ratchets up the already promising beginning around the one-minute mark when drums fall in. The sturdy backbeat turns up its urgency for listeners. Some will note musical similarities with the album’s opener.
His oldest release available on Spotify, 2013’s Players All Are We, is a fourteen-song effort delivering notice of a major talent to the world at large. The Australian born Green opens the recording with one of his most popular tracks “Angel of the Morning”. It is a song to a Muse-like figure, always the most effective point of view for any sort of love song, anyone will connect with. The diverse instrumentation and light drumming add further polish to the track.
“Players All Are We”, the album’s title song, shares the same diverse instrumentation and incorporates piano as well. Some of the flourishes from keys are among the cut’s key points and bring a dash of flair to Green’s usually minimalist arrangements. Another of Green and the Time Machine’s most popular Spotify selections is a pivotal track on Players All Are We, “Have the Seasons Changed?”, is a rare moment. The acapella nature of this track shows a sort of bravery we don’t often hear from performers, but the unusual approach works well.
Both albums are exceptional. You can, however, hear how Green’s authorial concerns have remained consistent yet expanded over the years. You can hear how the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune never wounded his poetic spirit. Sam Green and the Time Machine’s work is far from over, but what they have brought us is more than enough.