Three years have elapsed since Sam Lao burst onto the scene with her astonishing West Pantego EP.
The journey from West Pantego to SPCTRM, the Dallas-based Lao’s full-length debut, was not easy. As she told the Dallas Observer, after she had to start recording anew: “I lost everything I had worked hard on, and for a minute there I thought, ‘Yo, is this just going to be the end of Sam Lao?’”
But, as the saying goes, nothing worth having comes easy, and there is a hard-won grit to SPCTRM’s 10 tracks. It’s a masterful expansion of Lao’s sound, as well as a fulfillment of the considerable promise displayed on West Pantego. Lao breezily shifts from no-nonsense — the phenomenal opener Reminder (B— I’m Me) — to sensual (the smoldering Gold Link). Bobby Sessions and 88 Killa cameo late on SPCTRM, but this record is fully Lao’s showcase, and one of the best records I’ve heard in this still-young year. Lao will celebrate SPCTRM’s release Friday at Dallas’ RBC, with support from 88 Killa and Blue, the Misfit.
Vanessa Peters, ‘The Burden of Unshakeable Proof’
It may not be evident listening to Dallas singer-songwriter Vanessa Peters’ follow-up to 2012’s The Burn The Truth The Lies, but there is serious sweat equity invested in what Peters calls “the most important album” she’s made to date. “We spent two years and pretty much every penny we had ... to build a professional-grade recording studio,” Peters writes on her website. “We wrote and demoed 27 songs, brought together amazing musicians ... and launched an ongoing crowdfunding campaign.” The result — The Burden of Unshakeable Proof — unfurls across 10 gorgeously sculpted tracks, a blissful shuffling of folk, pop and jazz bound together by Peters’ peerless voice. Peters’ next area performance is March 11 at Denton’s Taps and Caps, as a 35 Denton showcasing artist.
Parallel Play, ‘Bucket of Lies’
Dallas folk foursome Parallel Play goes for broke on its third EP, following 2014’s Take Your Pants Off. Leading off with the merry but angered title track — “Advertising the duel on marquees/You can throw a big show and put spin on it/But all underneath it’s a bucket of lies,” goes one acidic refrain, rendered in Jeremy Drake’s high, nervous tenor — Bucket of Lies covers a lot of ground over its five tracks and 21 minutes. The rollicking When She Says She Can’t masks its bruised heart with an up-tempo bluegrass shuffle: “That old diamond wedding ring/Don’t mean nothing now.” Despite its shadows, Lies sparkles. Parallel Play will celebrate Lies’ release, along with Loyal Sally, Saturday at Dallas’ Sundown at Granada.