If there’s one word that could be used to describe Kashena Sampson’s life, it would be colourful. Originally from Las Vegas, after struggles with drugs and alcohol she took a job as a singer on a cruise ship, before moving to Nashville where she honed her blend of folk, blues and country. Following her UK debut at the Americanafest showcase back in February and the release of her album Wild Heart over here last month, Sampson returned to play a full band show at London’s intimate The Slaughtered Lamb.
Sampson opened her set with That Don’t Sit Too Well With Me. It’s one of the most ‘country’ tracks on her album and the rollicking, twangy vibe definitely got the audience’s feet tapping. The song also showed off the power in her voice and I loved the sharp, biting lyrics too. From the off she was incredibly warm, chatting with the audience and jamming with her band throughout.
Throughout her performance Sampson showcased her incredible vocals and fantastic range. The anthemic, defiant Away From Here highlighted her rich tones, whilst Wild Heart was full of yearning and It’s A Long Way Back started off subdued before soaring on the chorus. I also really liked the uptempo, humourous Greasy Spoon, which put the focus on Sampson’s skill as a storyteller, and Never Give Up, which had a much more rock influence than the album version.
Although she mostly stuck to songs from her album, Sampson also threw in a couple of cover versions. Her take on The Shocking Blue’s Hello Darkness had a swampy quality which brought out the gravelly edge to her voice, but her version of Motherless Child (which also appears on her album) was a standout moment. She really captured the raw emotion of the song and hit some incredibly impressive notes towards the end. Another highlight was She Shines, a sweet yet soulful number which saw Sampson being incredibly expressive as she stood at the microphone. You could tell she was completely lost in the music and the audience was carried with her, whooping and clapping as the song drew to a close.
Sampson closed her performance with Come Back To Me, which she dedicated to the friend she wrote it about and for. It was a wonderful way to end the set, with its atmospheric melody building up layers of sound that balanced perfectly with Sampson’s lush, full vocals. The song was incredibly moving and definitely left me (and the rest of the crowd) wanting more.
Overall I really enjoyed Sampson’s show. She’d impressed me with her acoustic performance at Americanafest so I was keen to see what she’d do with a full band, and she didn’t disappoint. As well as blowing me away with her powerhouse vocals (which seem to sound better every time I hear her live), she also had great stage presence and really brought out the emotions of her songs. It was an utterly stunning performance and I’m sure she won over plenty of new fans. My only criticism is that it was too short!
Set list: 1. That Don’t Sit Too Well With Me 2. Away From Here 3. Wild Heart 4. It’s A Long Way Back 5. Greasy Spoon 6. She Shines 7. Motherless Child 8. Hello Darkness 9. Never Give Up 10. Hold Me Close 11. Come Back To Me Performance date: 31st May 2018