For years now, "Big Gus" Samuelson has been as busy a musician as can be found in North Texas. Whether he's playing with his longtime band Swampadelic or flying solo, Samuelson, who also works as a DJ on KHYI 95.3 FM (we even gave him an award for it!), currently has at least three residencies in progress: On Monday night, Swampadelic play at The Free Man in Deep Ellum, which is a fine fit for their Cajun-inflected country rock. On certain Wednesday nights, Hard Rock Cafe in downtown is where the group can be heard. Thursday nights are when Samuelson flies solo and gets to mix it up a bit at Espiritu, a cozy wine bar in Frisco, where he usually has a fellow songwriter join him for some singin' and sippin'.
But keeping busy with a busy band isn't enough for the native of Louisiana who once served as Merle Haggard's tour manager in the early 1980's.
Last year, Samuelson released American Soul, a rich, rustic solo album that couldn't ooze more soul if it tried. And as of a couple of weeks ago, a new project has been added to his bag of musical tricks. Sinner Man, a trio led by Samuelson, also features Bobby Chitwood on bass and Thad Moore on drums.
The trio debuted at the All Good Café on January 9, and a record, tentatively titled Big Snake (he jokes that he might add "Or Love Songs for Serpent Healers" to the working title), has already been written, with demos for a few songs also having been completed (including one you can hear below for "Dear God," featuring only Samuelson singing and playing electric guitar).
The name of the new project and the album certainly allude to spirituality, which Samuelson addressed to a point on American Soul. But for this project, spiritual themes are purposefully going to be in the thick of what Sinner Man does. The band's name, for example, is taken from the Del McCoury song, "Get Down on Your Knees and Pray."
"The album will be 12 songs that are deeply personal," Samuelson explains. "Each song is inspired by true Southern roots music. Even though this isn't a bluegrass or Delta blues set of songs, it was inspired by artists like Del McCoury and Fred McDowell. All of these songs will have a recurring faith-based theme."
As busy as he is, Samuelson admits that Sinner Man is indeed a side project, but insists that it's a "serious side project," as Swampadelic isn't halting its always hectic schedule. In fact, the song he shares with us, "Dear God," at least at this point, is a beautifully sparse number where Samuelson's low vocal really hits the right note as he really feels like a man desperate for help from a higher power -- something another person can't offer.
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For now, Samuelson will keep things pretty nice and tidy. Swampadelic shows will feature Swampadelic songs only; no Sinner Man material. But his Thursday night gigs in Frisco will now feature a great deal of Sinner Man material mixed in with his solo material. To add intrigue as to what to expect from Sinner Man sonically, Samuelson offers up a few hints that only serve to create more intrigue.
"No solos, no love songs," he teases. "But the ballads are where this band actually rocks."
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