‘Rip-roaring start’ to 2017 for St. Lawrence Stage

Samantha Martin and Delta Sugar ring in the new year for audience of acoustic stage.

SOUTH DUNDAS – The St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage will musically usher in 2017 by offering audiences what promises to be a truly one of a kind concert.

Samantha Martin and Delta Sugar is coming to Upper Canada Playhouse on Saturday, January 21, at 7 p.m., bringing a unique and high energy blend of soul, gospel, roots and blues. Nominated for four Maple Blues Awards in 2016, following the 2015 debut of the group’s acclaimed CD Send the Nightingale, Samantha Martin and Delta Sugar will take Stage audiences by storm.

“This is going to be a rip-roaring start to the New Year,” said Sandra Whitworth, chair of the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage. “Samantha and her five-piece band are doing the entire show: with her absolutely riveting voice (and the very fun dynamic she has with her band), the audience will know why we wanted her for the entire show.”

Singer/songwriter/instrumentalist Samantha Martin’s voice has been compared to Tina Turner, to Etta James, to Serena Ryder and to Janis Joplin.  Critics and audiences alike have been bowled over by what Exclaim magazine describes as a voice that is “a force of nature, one of those voices that grabs you by the throat while causing the hairs on the back of your neck to tingle.”

I asked Samantha about her striking, and what some have called, her “powerhouse” vocal style.

“I think it started with my influences growing up,” Samantha said. “I tended to emulate what I heard. My mom loved Joplin, rock and roll and the blues. From these I eventually found my own, ‘true voice’: this is the voice, I think, that ultimately works for you.”

Largely self taught both vocally and instrumentally, she recalls her father showing her the basic guitar chords: then she simply started to sing. “I guess I was a bit of a precocious kid,” Samantha said. “Music became an outlet for me and a way to deal with feelings. I needed to express myself, and frankly I can’t paint,” she laughed. “Music lets me find my inner expression, and I need to create. You might call it a sort of relief to my soul to sing.”

Following a move to Toronto, and the release (2008) of her first full length CD, she threw herself into the festivals and clubs circuit. Eventually, this led to the formation of the band, Samantha Martin and the Haggard, and the release of a 2012 CD.

However, Haggard is fundamentally “roots,” Samantha explained, where Delta Sugar, her newest band, is “blues and soul”.

“I had showcases where I had to take a limited number of back-ups with me,” she said, explaining the shift in her musical focus. She decided to take out the bass and drums, while retaining two back-up singers and the two guitarists.

“The more I wrote, the more my songs grew vocal heavy. They could have morphed into gospel or bluegrass: I chose gospel. Gospel music has a different feel to it, with its tremolo and reverberations, more a blues than a country sound. Delta Sugar was born out of this.”
Delta Sugar is unique.

“Not a lot of groups do what we do. No bass, a drummer now, but music that is truly vocally driven. We really focus on lyrics and harmony,” she explained. “We have four vocalists and that seems to set us apart. I saw a unique niche out there musically that I felt we fit.”

As a lyricist, Samantha Martin writes most of the music Delta Sugar performs.

“We do do some covers,” she said, “but they may often be a bit obscure, chosen because they speak to me musically, not because they are necessarily well known to audiences. I find that I write as a way of dealing with my feelings:  however I am a song writer, not a novelist. Music, I feel, can be a way of dealing with hard times, with sadness (her last record reflected coping with the loss of her mother). My songs, I think, speak to people since I write about things that affect me, and, I believe, affect others too. Meryl Streep said something at the Golden Globes a while ago which really struck me: ’Take your broken heart and make it into art.’ I write songs about life.”

While she enjoys studio work, the opportunity to “do enough takes to really convey your musical wishes,” Samantha Martin also loves the excitement and challenge of live concerts.

“It’s great when an audience is up dancing and hooting and hollering,” she laughed. “I tell stories on stage because I want to engage an audience, let them get to know me as a person. I want people to enjoy themselves. And when I step on the stage, I deeply focus, cancel out everyday things and wipe them from my mind. I just live in the music.”

Be prepared, as SLAS president Sandra Whitworth expresses it, to be “blown away” when Samantha Martin and Delta Sugar come to Upper Canada Playhouse on Saturday, January 21, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door, and are available at Rurban Brewing in Cornwall, the Basket Case in Morrisburg or online from the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage.