Sam R Gibson is a singer-songwriter based in Holywood, County Down who has taught in further education in Ireland and the Middle East. Sam spends a lot of time in North East Donegal and has performed live at venues in the region both solo and with The Wonder Boys – Billy Robinson, Jonathan Smeaton, Seamus Devenny and Peadar Coll, all of whom, along with Percy Robinson, play on Sam’s latest album Seeking The Assassin.
Sam is currently engaged in a co-writing project with Jonathan Smeaton, one of Donegal’s best-known and most highly-regarded musicians whose own albums have received fulsome critical praise. Sam has also shared the stage with C.P. Lee (ex- leader of Alberto Y Lost Trios Paranoias), John T Davis and Canadian poet Kathleen McCracken. He appeared recently on Donegal’s Highland Radio showcasing songs from Seeking The Assassin.
Sam’s music and songs reflect his absorption in Americana sources. On the album Seeking The Assassin, the musical echoes of the border regions of Texas and Mexico are discernible on some of the tracks- complemented by the masterly lead playing of Percy Robinson.
The Irish-American experience is also a feature of Sam’s work. This is apparent in songs such as One More Night in Agua Dulce– a poignant ballad of the tragic St Patrick’s Batallion.“One more night in Agua Dulce, sweet water’s bitter on my tongue/ Pray for my soul back in Kilkenny –they’re hanging Irishmen at dawn”.
Another such song is the recent Two Hands On The Handle (conceived with Jonathan Smeaton), which is a tender tale of the chance meeting and subsequent romance in wartime of a young Irish woman and an American service man from Nebraska. “Love that comes out of nowhere when you’re praying for time”. The young woman was an aunt of Sam’s and the episode is also touchingly captured in John T Davis’s film – Tailwind. John T Davis is a widely-acclaimed feature documentary film-maker and musician. Sam co-wrote the songs : Tailwind ; Heartache on the Highway and Over There which appear on John’s recently-released and well-received album Indigo Snow.
Sam has been associated with the Labourist tradition in the North of Ireland as an alternative to the politics of communal division. Some of this comes through in songs such as Heaven in the Heart .“The Lords of The Universe they say-gonna make the poor ones pay and pay.” In Katrina’s To Blame, about the New Orleans hurricane, Sam attempts to channel the spirit of Woody Guthrie in lines like: “They gave it a name now Katrina’s to blame for blowin us out of our homes /They say it’s God’s will and they’re sayin it still /Well I just ask one thing of him/ Next time that He blows may it be onto those livin high on the hog on the hill”.
Sam has drawn inspiration for some of his songs from visits to the USA and from walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain on a number of occasions. He is hoping to soon record an EP of his Camino Songs .“The cathedral has its pilgrim, stood serenely there in peace/ High on horseback he’s a warrior cutting down his enemies/ In between we stood together, like we’d never stand again, while the streets of Santiago shimmered silver in the rain”. From The Way Out Of Leon.