This review assignment marks my first listening experience with Sam Green and the Time Machine. It won’t be the last. Any music devotee with literary sophistication will appreciate the exquisitely crafted lyrical content found throughout his work. His musical contributions are nuanced at assorted points, but anyone who finds acoustic guitar and the lone voice in the wilderness act off-putting are advised to turn back here. It is far from all he does, but Green would never argue he owes an enormous debt to traditional music styles like blues, country, and folk.
The obvious influences are present as well. You can hear echoes of Cat Stevens, Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and others cropping up at several points over the last five plus years. “For the Ocean” from his 2013 outing I Think It’s About Time is among his most popular tracks available through Spotify for good reason. I felt quite taken by the patient way this track comes together – Green constructs its musical mood piece by piece without ever sounding premeditated or overly thought out. The natural development of this track is an abiding characteristic of Green’s songwriting. It is, as well, a perfect illustration of how Green transforms his influences into work all his own.
“Have the Seasons Changed?” is a outlier, but there’s nothing else like it elsewhere on Sam Green’s Spotify page. This acapella performance wouldn’t work as well as it does, however, without the earnest open-throated singing and well-turned phrases laden through each verse. It’s one of his most nakedly vulnerable tracks. “Your Heart Is a Diamond” is another performance from the same release, 2013’s Players All Are We, exuding a rare depth of emotion. It is a short track, like many Green performances, and has a timeless welcoming message. The straight-ahead strumming running throughout the track matches up well with his voice.
“I Am Who Justi Be” may have a slightly unconventional title, but it’s an earnest statement of purpose powered by a substantive poetic sensibility. It isn’t often, really, we encounter songwriting talents who can make songs like this work. There are multiple layers present in this cut and the one I respond to first is Green’s awareness of his place in life’s scheme. These are the sort of deceptively simple truths present throughout his work including 2017’s Love, Love, Love. “If A Rose” is another delicate jewel from this release that gives full vent to his lyrical talents and boasts excellent vocal harmonies to boot.
“Collection of Now and Then” is another one of the best songs from Green’s last eight years. It may revisit recurring themes heard throughout his writing, but he has the skill for pouring old wine into new bottles. It has the same musical makeup as much of his other material; the comprehensive approach to both the instrumental and vocal arrangement enhances its worth. Sam Green and the Time Machine have been working quietly over the course of the last near-decade and their artistic achievement is plain to anyone paying attention.