Sam Hunt at Chicks

For the 9th day of May – NZ Music Month – I can’t let the opportunity to recommend “The 9th” by Sam Hunt with David Kilgour And The Heavy Eights go by. Sadly there is no Bandcamp* our Soundcloud music to embed so you will have to track it down old school style (in a record shop) as it is released on David’s own Bandit King Records (though you can find it on iTunes here).

[UPDATE 22 May: *It’s up on David Kilgour & The Heavy Eights bandcamp now! Here’s the opening track “Rainbows (and a Promise of Snow)”]

Anyone who witnessed the show they played at Chick’s Hotel last year, immediately following the recording of the album in that Port Chalmers pub, will not be surprised to hear there is magic captured within this album.

The combination of Sam Hunt’s words and voice and the musical alchemy of David Kilgour and The Heavy Eights is something special indeed. Even more so than their first collaboration – “Falling Debris” – released in 2009 which was Sam’s words (without his voice) set to music.

Sam was the first poet I ever heard perform. I was still at school. It was in a museum art gallery and Sam was a mess of hair, untucked farm clothes and floppy woollen socks. He was – and still is – unique. That braying sing-song voice, impertinent banter, and his ability to communicate through poetry in the primordial, pre-cultural gloom of New Zealand at that time, was inspirational. He was like a musician, but all he played was words and ideas. But he played them like a rock and roll musician plays an instrument. He was the Iggy Pop of poetry to me. He broke poetry out of a class room struggle and gave it relevance in the real world.

Not long after that I came across another local rock and roll poet, Dunedin’s Peter Olds. At that time he was writing wild tales of drugs, cars, gangs, rock music and existential angst. In photos he looked like Gene Clark from The Byrds. I never saw Peter Olds read his poetry, so I read his words silently in my head in Sam’s voice. I still do today. Sam’s voice can turn any words into the music of poetry.

“The 9th” gives David Kilgour (The Clean) and band freedom to explore free of song structure, although some songs do have a chorus of sorts. The atmosphere of the music is a perfect combination for the words and voice. It’s more than just background. In so many places it merges with the words, like reading off a patterned page.

I’m only just beginning to get involved in the album. I have the feeling it will be a favourite for a long time. The music and words here often evokes NZ and memory in a similar way to great Australian songwriter Grant McLennan in The Go-Betweens. It will be great on repeat on long road trips, the words setting of images, thoughts, memories to keep the mind alert.

So here’s to “The 9th”. You should try and find it. In the meantime I recommend you familiarise yourself with Sam and the album through this great interview with Sam on Mysterion Art Factory.

You can also hear some of the album in this Radio NZ review: