Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar
The Reckless One

Samantha Martin takes no prisoners.
It’s no coincidence that the cover of her new CD, The Reckless One, is a multi -coloured, gold-leafed representation of a hand grenade. This is, indeed, both explosive and reckless. It is also the long-awaited successor to 2015’s Send the Nightingale, which in turn was preceded by two albums and an EP going back to 2008.
Diminutive and armed with a voice that could scrape paint blisters from a stucco wall, Ms. Martin has delivered a very different record — with a 10-piece band that’ll do what old-school r&b used to do: drive you to the dance floor. And the woman howls, wails, and cleans the wax out of your ears with surgical precision.
And yet there are moments of tenderness, when the singer eases the throttle — the final song, “Who Do You,” allows you to catch your breath, eases you out of the door and lets you go home quietly and reflectively.
Apart from the singer’s powerhouse voice, what makes this record unique is her accompaniment. It’s been a long time since a Canadian blues-based singer has surrounded herself with a horn-driven band that pushes most of the dozen songs here into overdrive.
Two back up singers, Sherie Marshall and Tafari Anthony provide a solid cushion for Martin’s vocals, and the guitars/bass groove is the responsibility of Curtis Chaffey and Ian McKeown, while Dani Nash and Will Fisher play drums on five and six tracks respectively (with Adam Warner playing on the opening song, “Love is All Around”). Andrew Moligun’s contributions can’t be ignored either — he plays piano, a variety of other keyboards, as well as saxes. Oh, and he also wrote the horn arrangements.
Special guest Jimmy Bowskill plays on “Loving You Is Easy,“ one of the mellower songs. Other participants on various cuts include co-producer Renan Yildizdogan (assorted keys, vibes, Mellotron and occasional string parts), Jeff Heisholt (organ) and Ross Hayes Citrullo (guitars). Much credit for the crisp, tough- edged sound should go to co-producer Darcy Yates.
Two teams of trombone/trumpet players (Emily Ferrell and Brian Walters, and Tom Richards and James Rhodes) play on half a dozen tracks each, and the horn-driven sound gives Delta Sugar its unique position on the Canadian blues scene.
All but one of the songs are either written by Martin or are co-writes with Jake Chisholm, lead guitarist Curtis Chaffey, Paul Reddick or the album’s co-producer, Renan Yildizdogan. The exception is “Meet Me in the Morning,” a relatively obscure Bob Dylan song — but given its funky old-school r&b treatment it’s unlikely that the writer would recognize it.
But what really counts on this record is Samantha Martin’s vision for what works to showcase her remarkable voice — and, when the band plays live, her on-stage vibe of likeable energy and smiling friendliness.
This is a stand-up, stand-out album. Everyone involved should be proud of what’s been achieved here. And blues fans — in hometown Toronto, and wherever and whenever Samantha Martin tours internationally — can put this music in their hearts. (Richard Flohil)