The breakthrough soul of Sam Ravenna

On this latest eponymously named album, Sam Ravenna brings together all the influences and experiences of a prolific Lake Tahoe producer and virtuoso musician. After three volumes of ragga-infused “Samily Man,” Ravenna has delivered an R&B masterpiece that simply raises the bar for the local recording scene.

Watch the video for “Free as You Wanna Be”

On this latest eponymously named album, Sam Ravenna brings together all the influences and experiences of a prolific Lake Tahoe producer and virtuoso musician. After three volumes of ragga-infused “Samily Man,” Ravenna has delivered an R&B masterpiece that simply raises the bar for the local recording scene.

Album Release Party w/Rapplesauce
June 25 | 8 p.m. | Moe’s Original BBQ | Tahoe City
Aug. 3 | 6 p.m. | Truckee Thursdays | Downtown Truckee
Aug. 12 | 10 p.m. | Auld Dubliner | Olympic Valley

As to be expected with Ravenna, the bass and drums come in solid right from the top, but now with a more light-hearted soul vibe than the reggae that swayed him once before. Synthesizer and electric guitar trade interweaving melodies and energetic ideas before the opening track “Pull Me Down” drops into a funky disco groove that never lets go.

The best part about “Sam Ravenna” is that he has proved once and for all that he can really sing. Ravenna delivers vocals with the emotional clarity and sense of purpose rarely heard in contemporary music. His voice appears effortlessly soulful throughout what has just topped The Sextones’ “Moonlight Vision” as Tahoe’s best local release of 2017.

Synthesizer and electric guitar trade interweaving melodies and energetic ideas before the opening track “Pull Me Down” drops into a funky disco groove that never lets go.

Recorded at More Sound Recording Studio in Syracuse, N.Y., “Sam Ravenna” is a clear statement of an artist intent on breaking new ground. The album offers interesting break downs, unexpected changes and amazing grooves throughout its nine tracks. Spaced-out horns fill the void left by tight drum and bass and scratchy funk guitar, but there is still plenty of space to spare. The result is a thick, juicy hamburger of soul music garnished with just the right amount of tasty fixin’s. While his vision has grown by leaps and bounds, Ravenna possesses the chops and personnel of studio musicians to deliver that vision on point.

As the album continues, “Desperation” begins on a mysterious channel that suddenly turns happy, opening with toy piano keys over a trance-like groove until the horns come in right on time.

“Free as You Wanna Be” is a feel-good single with a positive lyrical message. Its shredding guitar solo leads into a loose vocal breakdown over Hammond organ and stellar Stevie Wonderesque fat bass riffing.

“Over and Over” offers up a luscious, sex jam of jazzy keyboards and long-withheld passion.

By the time we reach “Interlude 1” with its long-distance horns via late-era Miles Davis pulse and groove, I’m loving how laid back and loose this album is considering its quest for musical perfection.

The aggressively funky “Get it Right” slaps down some nasty double-bass soloing before “Sad Day” features the freestyle rapping of MC Shun McGhee.

“Interlude 2” could easily be mistaken for the outtake of a Phish sound check with its random trap snap set on an odd-time signature.

Over the old-school guitar arpeggios of “Brighter side,” Ravenna drops his voice down to get real about our modern-day troubles, singing with a soulfulness deeper than even his mother could’ve ever expected. Bravo, Mr. Ravenna, for raising the bar on the Tahoe music scene and delivering a breakthrough personal statement that we can all enjoy all summer long. Bravo.

For more information, visit samravenna.com.

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Sean McAlindin

Sean McAlindin is a writer, musician and educator based in Truckee. When he’s not drafting new story ideas, he can be found jamming with his Celtic bluegrass band, Lost Whiskey Engine, hiking for a local back-country powder stash or hanging out with his daughter, Penelope.