Musical dexterity is well and good. But better yet, try writing melodies with hooks your listeners can hold on to. Take the Samples, for example. Having attained credibility with the college crowd by prefiguring the jam-band template in the mid-'80s, this Colorado combo has largely eschewed the rambling, numbing style of rock generally favored by others of that ilk in favor of more concise, melodic material. Having reached their 20-year milestone, the Samples champion a sound that puts the emphasis on reflective, evocative narratives, detailing love, loss, and idyllic glimpses of the heartland. While singer/songwriter Sean Kelly remains the band's sole mainstay, it's that Samples style — easy, blissful ruminations grafted to reggae-infused rhythms, all of it filtered through a stoner's wistful perspective — that's been the constant throughout. Even at their most contemplative, they maintain an upward gaze, perhaps inspired by the mountains that make their home state so scenic and so stunning. It gives their music a cinematic sensibility, grappled to its quiet, determined optimism. Although the latest album, Rehearsing for Life; their self-titled debut; and the sprawling concert set Transmissions From the Sea of Tranquility have garnered the group a fervent following, live performance is the best way to sample the Samples at their most proficient.
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