Listen: Man of the Streets
After Ironing Board Sam wrapped up the Music Maker Blues Revue last night in Hillsborough, NC, I hurried up to him to give him a hug before we parted ways for the night. He was riding the high of his performance – and he’s a very jovial person besides – so he hugged me back with a huge amount of enthusiasm and energy and his dentures popped right out.
“Sam,” I said. “You just smiled so big it leaped off your face!”
I could tell he was a little embarrassed, but he recovered gracefully and moved on to the crowd of adoring fans waiting to shake his hand and take photos. A day in the life of living legend Ironing Board Sam.
Sam’s newest album, Double Bang!, was officially released this week. It’s a great collection packed with recordings Sam did with MMRF partner Ardie Dean (and backed by the Memphis Horns, who had just finished touring with Elton John) but what really leaps out to me as special, and what I’m diggin’ this week with the new release, is the second part of the second disc, which is a collection of singles from old 45s cut between 1968 and 1970.
“Man of the Street” is one of those singles that really encompasses an era in a familiar voice. It’s delightfully funky and quintessentially Sam; he sings about his struggles earnestly and about recognizing those roots even when you find some modicum of success. It’s the story of his life: he’s a man of the streets and he don’t care who knows. It’s writ large all over his work and in the stories he tells of the places he’s been.
I’ve only been around Sam for a very small part of his journey, but even the small part that I’ve experienced first-hand has had a dramatic trajectory, kind of like a comet arcing over the Earth (and if I know Sam, I know he’d like that metaphor.) That movement and momentum is stuffed into this track until it makes you want to burst with energy.
When I think back to when I first started working for Music Maker back in August, the first significant moment where I felt like I was in the right place was when we sat in the studio with Sam and listened to the master we had just received of the tracks on disc one of Double Bang. We were sitting with him queuing up the tracks and his smile just leaped right off his face.