Press Clipping
12/15/2015
Article
The Best Southern Albums of 2015

Sam Gleaves: “Ain’t We Brothers”
Release Date: November 13, 2015
Wythe County, Virginia / now Berea, Kentucky

Sam Gleaves is a young Virginian you’ve never heard of. Back in September, an email from a publicist arrived and said: “Sam Gleaves is a rare bird. Hauntingly talented songwriter, deeply traditional picker and singer, historian of Appalachian lore. And he's part of another community that doesn't get a lot of attention in that area of the world: Sam is openly gay.” Well, we figured, we at least need to listen to that record. We had no idea deeply how Gleaves’ music would plant itself in our heads. The power of this album comes from the fact that Gleaves has the courage to claim the mountain-music traditions in which he was raised as fiercely as he claims his equality as a human being. Here’s what Sam does: He writes songs that hew strictly to the spare instrumentation and archaic lyrical phrasings of the purest Appalachian music. Mountain love songs, just like all the others you’ve heard. But, you know, different. Consider “Two Virginia Boys”: “If two Virginia boys can fall in love / I reckon that’s just what we’ll do / In my heart you are my darlin’ / At my gate you’re welcome in / At my door I’ll always greet you / You’re the one I long to win.” By the time you reach the album’s 11th cut, it sounds entirely appropriate to hear Gleaves duet with his partner on the Carter Family’s 1936 chestnut, “My Dixie Darlin’.” The record is a hell of a step forward by a very talented young man.