Am I The Meadow Or The Mountain?

by Whisperer

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about

๐˜›๐˜ฐ ๐˜ด๐˜ฆ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ช๐˜ด ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ณ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜จ๐˜ฉ
๐˜ž๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ต ๐˜ธ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฐ
๐˜๐˜ด ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ข๐˜ค๐˜ฉ
๐˜ˆ ๐˜ด๐˜ฉ๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ, ๐˜–๐˜ถ๐˜ต ๐˜ง๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ, ๐˜ˆ ๐˜ฑ๐˜ฐ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ต ๐˜ฐ๐˜ง ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ๐˜ด๐˜ด ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜จ๐˜ฉ๐˜ต

To say that Sam Fuller-Smith is my favorite male vocalist working today might sound like an exaggeration, but it isnโ€™t. If a good vocalist is someone who recognizes their gifts and limitations and sorts out how best to work within those boundaries then Sam is in the enviable position of possessing not only an effortless tenor but a craftsmanโ€™s command of that tool. None of the pitfalls of the typical modern male vocalist, the over-annunciation, the pinched whine, the emotionally empty affectation, are to be found here. Instead, thereโ€™s only a pure reed of a voice and its methodically constructed accompaniment. Fuller-Smith achieves a delicate balancing act in that his songs are impressionistic yet direct, even deceptively so. They donโ€™t tell stories nor are they about particular situations, but are the stuff of his experiences and his attempts to work through the way he encounters them. They are forward-looking and modern despite being rooted in the past. To me, that makes them timeless.

๐˜“๐˜ฆ๐˜ข๐˜ท๐˜ฆ ๐˜ธ๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ ๐˜บ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ
๐˜‰๐˜ถ๐˜ต ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏโ€™๐˜ต ๐˜ฃ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ข ๐˜ด๐˜ต๐˜ณ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜จ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ

Though Fuller-Smithโ€™s life has spanned the United States (Seattle, Lawrence, Nashville and Raleigh from West Coast to East) I find his music uniquely evocative of the Midwest. This is American Music without being Americana. It bears none of the tired genre-markers of that over-conscious, overwrought and increasingly closed system. It might sound tired to say that the low rumble running throughout the background of opener โ€œDonโ€™t Be a Strangerโ€ isnโ€™t unlike big rigs crisscrossing the American Steppe; or that everything about these recordings brings to mind the long drives between East Coast and West, specifically that terrain of wind turbines and grain silos one encounters crossing Iowa. Maybe it sounds clichรฉ, but it feels right. The sparseness of these arrangements brings to mind a landscape equally spare.

๐˜Š๐˜ข๐˜ฏโ€™๐˜ต ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ญ๐˜ข๐˜ต๐˜ฆ ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ ๐˜ค๐˜ฐ๐˜ฎ๐˜ฎ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ฑ๐˜ญ๐˜ข๐˜ค๐˜ฆ ๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ๐˜ท๐˜ช๐˜ด๐˜ช๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ด๐˜ต๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ด

Fuller-Smith wrote these songs in Seattle after moving back there from an interlude of a few years in Nashville. Sam would venture to Nashville from the Pacific Northwest several times from 2016-2018 to put this music down with engineer, multi-instrumentalist and friend Rodrigo Avendaรฑo; two sessions of four songs each, followed by two overdub sessions. The duo work fast and donโ€™t question much. This is borne out by the effortless sound of the recordings. Nothing feels fussed over. Every decision made seems inevitable. For me, their work brings to mind the too-brief working relationship of Damien Jurado and Richard Swift; one is the songwriter, the other the sonic architect.

๐˜ ๐˜ฑ๐˜ข๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ง๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ ๐˜บ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ
๐˜ˆ ๐˜ค๐˜ช๐˜ณ๐˜ค๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ข ๐˜ด๐˜ต๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ
๐˜›๐˜ฐ ๐˜ต๐˜ณ๐˜ข๐˜ค๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฃ๐˜ข๐˜ค๐˜ฌ ๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ฎ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ข๐˜จ๐˜ข๐˜ช๐˜ฏ
๐˜“๐˜ช๐˜ฌ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ข ๐˜ณ๐˜ช๐˜ท๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ ๐˜ณ๐˜ถ๐˜ฏ๐˜ด ๐˜ช๐˜ต ๐˜ข๐˜ธ๐˜ข๐˜บ

If there is a mountain in these meadows of song it is the trio in the center, beginning with the misty โ€œYou Were On My Mindโ€ and its harp-like banjo wanderings. In an album full of perfectly placed production and arrangement touches this triptych is the pinnacle. One of the most sublime moments comes when โ€œI Have to Believeโ€, a meditation on faith and its manifestation in love, begins with only hushed guitar and voice before being swept up just past the halfway mark by a current of plucked strings and percussion and carried through the instrumental back half of the tune casually hurtling toward a cluster of ambiguous Mellotron flute notes before disappearing completely. Each time this point comes Iโ€™m caught by surprise and left to think โ€œhow did I get here?โ€ โ€œNew Shadesโ€ rounds this movement out, balancing shimmering Fender Rhodes with single-note guitar and a minimal tom beat.

๐˜๐˜ฐ๐˜ญ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏโ€ฆ๐˜ด๐˜ฐ๐˜ฎ๐˜ฆ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จโ€™๐˜ด ๐˜ฃ๐˜ถ๐˜ณ๐˜ฏ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ
๐˜๐˜ต ๐˜ฎ๐˜ถ๐˜ด๐˜ต ๐˜ฃ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ธ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ ๐˜ข๐˜จ๐˜ข๐˜ช๐˜ฏ

There are other musicians on the record, Margo Priceโ€™s pedal steel ace Luke Schneider and Lylasโ€™ Kyle Hamlett among them. But most of the accompaniment is handled by Avendaรฑo and Fuller-Smith himself. A result of this is that the tendency to go for a โ€œband feelโ€ is largely absent. Often thereโ€™s little accompaniment at all, the songs left to hang vaporous, suspended in air like some of my favorite moments from the late Talk Talk albums. When other instruments are employed they make their appearance with conspicuous inevitability. No notes are wasted here.

๐˜ž๐˜ฉ๐˜ฐ ๐˜ค๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ญ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ท๐˜ฆ ๐˜ด๐˜ฆ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ
๐˜›๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ธ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ค๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜จ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ ๐˜ด๐˜ถ๐˜ค๐˜ฉ ๐˜ข ๐˜ธ๐˜ข๐˜บ?

Fuller-Smith says these songs are about โ€œtrying to capture lost time, feelings of longing, not knowing one's placeโ€ as well as โ€œuncertainty and searching and feeling a little lostโ€. These emotions are felt acutely throughout. And yet this collection of moody ruminations ends with what starts as a whisper before erupting into an explosive declaration of hope. Closer โ€œI Am Here Nowโ€ recalls all the best things about the Velvet Underground, as if โ€œHeroinโ€ had been recorded with the refinement of their eponymous album. Its triumphant squalls of feedback leave me with this feeling: sometimes all you can do to escape the gravity of old emotions is to destroy the things that trigger them, with love.

-Ryan Norris/Coupler
Chicago 2018

credits

released March 1, 2019

Sam Fuller-Smith: Vocals, acoustic and electric guitar, vibes, percussion, feedback
Rodrigo Avendano: Drums, bass, percussion, keys, synths, electric guitar
Kyle Hamlett: Banjo
Luke Schneider: Pedal Steel

Recorded and mixed by Rodrigo Avendano at Sweet Blood Sound in Nashville, TN
Mastered by James Plotkin

All songs written by Sam Fuller-Smith
Dogwood Origin Music BMI

Produced by Sam Fuller-Smith and Rodrigo Avendano

"Earth Turning" Painting by Lisa Grossman
Used with permission from the artist

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Whisperer Raleigh, North Carolina

Sam Fuller-Smith performs and records under the moniker Whisperer with the help and intuition of various like-minded players to channel contemplative sound

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Track Name: Don't Be A Stranger
how long has it been?
winding road ahead
how far is the end?
calling sparrow sent
you must have seen too much
I must be losing touch

when does the lighthouse turn it's gaze
for your returning to where it is you stay?

right now, the sirens end
have you seen trouble there?
hold on...something's burning
it must be winter again
these passing strangers have a way of
making me laugh and sigh
when I want to cry
it's the same thing every time

Oh, how the night comes waltzing through
wait for the sound and stars to follow you
curse now the daylight, bright and true
leave when you need to
but don't be a stranger
Track Name: Lullaby For A Ditch
instead of turning over solid ground
you could just stand up and look down
to see you never lost your way around
but it's a fool's game now
don't sleep away your best chance
to see the bluebird carry on
don't take it all
steal a glance
it's not an uncommon song

lullaby for a ditch
all you can do is look up

in this light
I can see what laid you down
it's passing formed a darkness never found
shoulder to shoulder
there's not one colder
turned on you by now
don't waste the light
hand it down
no room for the wall
don't speak the name
sing the song
all the way from the top

lullaby for a ditch
all you can do is look up

it's not an uncommon song
Track Name: You Were On My Mind
can't compare
haunted air
hungry for
an open door
can't relate to
common place
television stares

you were on my mind

shadows swing
alone in spring
reaching out
for those in doubt
the wind knows why
the earth will sigh
i can only try

you were on my mind

a calling bird's
goodnight word
will be sung
when twin bells rung
holding on to
what's been gone
happens all the time

see me now
wondering how
to be one
more or less done
feeling like all my pockets
are full of holes

you were on my mind
Track Name: I Have To Believe
I have to believe in a spirit
how holy, I will define
may be divine or cut from the pines
nonetheless, it is mine
I have to believe
in a present day saint
wandering the streets
stalking the weak like the
shadow of peace
I have to believe

And I will not be
down on my knees for anybody
but my baby
Track Name: New Shades
I painted for you
a circle around a stone
to trace back time again
like a river runs it away
you know we couldn't stay
bent branches on a sunny day

held in our hands
the blister of chance

each day changes the way
i see the changes coming
each time I draw the line
I have to turn away
it's hard to stay balanced from day to day
it's hard to say if I want to change
or stay the same

sweet returning
always learning

new shades drawn in a daze
I wonder how far we've come
Track Name: Blistered City Blues
sometimes the rain, repeating
is enough
a gentle promise to keep up
sometimes it takes the best of me
to remember:
it helps the blood get going
when it's almost morning
to race for the sun

I try to take the chance
to open all the doors and let
the dreamers dance
behind me- a forgetful cast
sometimes it takes a steady hand
and you are the only one
that I can stand

Oh, the Blistered City Blues?
I know that one
Track Name: Wonder Of Day
if I step out into winter wind
in time to see
my shadow
sink
beneath the city streets
I'll know I haven't missed
the wonder of day returning home

I've turned around
to see my face reflect
the years right back to me
to see this through
what we need to do is
reach
a shore, out farther, a point of endless thought
look out, my love
look out there for me

who could have seen the wind
change in such a way
not much left now
to make me want to stay
Track Name: I Am Here Now
I cant' explain the things I see
I don't know why it's happening around me
but I am a part of it all
related to every tragedy
every fruit tree
every fire escape
every moonbeam
every broken heart
every new beat
every shoe shine
every window screen
but that's just me

I can't see down every dark street
can't walk away from everyone I meet
sometimes, looking back, i should have
stuck around
but I can't cling to memories
of voices lost and found

I am here now

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