Sam Moss - Pitkin County Morning
From the kind of heaven where nylon string guitars are plucked by lightly calloused fingertips at your bedside upon waking, where almost every surface is cold to touch besides your blankets and your coffee and you never have to leave either, where your hair is and always has been its natural color and you are just so completely content with it, comes the gentle, angelic gust of winter wind that is Sam Moss. Moss is a prolific and celebrated Boston based singer songwriter whose list of releases and accomplishments is overwhelming. With 8 solo efforts, multiple collaborations, and a residency at the prestigious MacDowell Colony, it’s no surprise that his most recent 3 track EP, Pitkin County Morning is a work of highly refined artistry. In under 12 minutes, without paying an ounce of attention to Moss’s words or concrete intention, I was overwhelmed with an unrelenting desire to hold a soft dog, put on a warm pair of wool socks from my mom’s dryer; I had to choke back a lump in my throat, pull my knees to my chest in my car while I idled in the driveway.
Written during a winter spent in Colorado on a borrowed nylon string guitar, Pitkin County Morning embodies the sensation and sentiment of a bright but frigid winter morning spent passively in a white tiled kitchen. The record opens with “Walking the Line,” a quiet duet for fingerstyle guitar and voice. Moss shows us his ability to operate his guitar both as tasteful accompaniment to his soulful voice, and as a vessel for soloistic instrumental expression, weaving intricate melodies into simple but meaningful chord outlines and dying away when there’s something he needs to say.
“Postman” is a sorrowful, almost gospel-feeling folk waltz, sparingly decorated by clean and dry electric guitar. Moss’s voice really makes this track for me—at one point he sings sustained ahs so softly in the background that they are merely felt and not heard. His lyrics are solemn (I spent my last dollar on a walking cane // Is it worth wearing my soles to the dirt?); they make me feel like there’s something I’ve been meaning to apologize about to someone I can’t think of.
“Vertebrae” opens with a quartet of nylon string guitar, reverb soaked low register violin, domesticated Americana-twang lead electric guitar, and what sounds like a clean hollow body of some sort. The quartet of voices would lend itself perfectly well as an instrumental track, just those four lines interacting, but a minute and a half into the soundscape, Moss offers a vocal melody so sweet and meaningful that all you can do is exhale. The interaction of the two and sometimes three guitars is especially enchanting—they take turns making important melodic statements, sometimes doubling each other in octaves, sometimes acting as the rhythmic pulse, sometimes arpeggiating the harmony… Each voice assumes a different role at different times, crossing and weaving the melody into a varied pallet of tone color. It’s a thoughtful composition tactic that translates as a textural adventure for the listener.
Though Moss offers Pitkin County Morning as “a lo-fi preview of things to come” and as “works in progress”, I don’t know that I need much else to be satiated. The honest and genuine delivery on this EP shows us Moss’s ability to recreate and react to his environment by way of very sparing instrumentation, a remarkable quality that few songwriters possess. For me, the chance to be transported so accurately into another person’s poetic experience, the chance to relive a refined and edited version of Moss’s winter in Colorado, makes Pitkin County Morning a small collection of tracks worth dog-earing and returning to many times over for the exact right occasion.
- Hannah Liuzzo