Album Review: Rae Sam’s ‘The Great Escape’

There is something incredibly uplifting about Rae Sam’s debut album The Great Escape. The Welsh singer-songwriter has found a winning combination of positive lyrics, upbeat sounds and pleasant vocals. All contribute to a feel-good sound that makes you want to get up and dance for the most part, with only a couple of tracks winding down the tempo to give space for a more reflective tone. This sees Rae drawing on her Celtic roots to bring a taste of Welsh folk to a record that is otherwise laden with modern Country sounds.

The first couple of tracks on The Great Escape are all packed with plenty of punchy pop production, resulting in a toe-tapping beginning to an album that is recognisably Country in the modern sense of the word. ‘Keep Running’ has almost certainly been influenced by Rae’s time in Nashville whilst ‘Shot Down’ contains ample overtones of Maren Morris’ musical style. It is when track four is reached that the Celtic connection begins to emerge. ‘Still Breathing’ is filled with some lovely electric guitar riffs and a steady drumbeat which accompany a soft, clear vocal that infuses the song to give it a real folk feel. It is in complete contrast to the moodiness of ‘Mr Hollywood’, and even the party atmosphere created on ‘Feel This Good’, a song that instils a deep longing for a time when we can all meet up with friends again and dance the night away.

‘Honey’ is a very sensuous track that is ideal preparation for what comes next. Having largely spent time in the company of some very funky beats so far, the second half of the album really begins to lean in on the Celtic influence. This is especially true on ‘Coming Home’, the most interesting song on The Great Escape. In many ways, it is pure folk, with a really haunting and ethereal atmosphere established immediately. But as the track builds so the music diversifies until an extraordinary cacophony of sound produces a crescendo that is utterly captivating. The song ends on a truly mystical note which rounds off the previous six minutes of fascinating sound perfectly. It is an excellent piece of music. Only ‘Wildly Me’ could follow such an arrangement with lyrics that are so inspiring as to be an anthem for anyone struggling with identity and self-esteem. It calls us to be the best version of ourselves via an autobiographical account of Rae Sam’s own experience where “Slowly I let go of what you think of me/ throw caution into the air and finally breathe/ Then I can be truly me”.

The album ends with a rather sultry ‘Other Woman’, featuring some lovely pedal steel and bluesy organ, and a light touch of sadness in the form of ‘Same About You’. This final number is a deft expression of the gentleness found in many a Welsh folk tune, completing a journey that feels like it started in Music City and has ended on the Green, Green Grass of Home. In truth, The Great Escape represents the interchange where Nashville meets Wales, as Rae Sam brings the best of both these worlds to bear on an album that mixes a very personal sound with some mainstream pop vibes. Add to that her uplifting lyrics and it is a very solid debut from this talented Welsh artist.

Album review written by Gareth Williams (twitter.com/lostinbluejazz1)

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