Voice of reason: Sam Turton
PULSE NIAGARA - 04/15/04
by Marinko Jareb
Guelph resident and St. Catharines native Sam Turton released his debut album Feel late last year, but it was by no means his initial foray into music. Local live music fans may remember Turton from Niagara's club scene, where he played in numerous combinations including Driving South and Soul Obsession. After more than 30 years of playing guitar and writing songs, Turton is finally the front man.
Despite being bathed in the spotlight and sitting front and center, Turton doesn't have the ego of a typical musician. It isn't about fancy riffs, glitz and glam with him, but rather the steady rhythm of a lifelong dedication to playing music and straight from the heart lyrics. Feel is packed with an emotional intensity and a timeless quality that will make them infectious for both listening and dancing—Turton's is the music that can be a constant companion.
Perhaps the most unique detail about Turton's music is its connection to primal therapy, an idea that was popularized by John Lennon in the '70s. Lennon underwent primal therapy prior to recording the powerfully revealing Plastic Ono Band album. Turton is a trained therapist and has started his own practice in Guelph called Primal Integration. Turton has developed a unified approach to personal growth borrowing ideas from Zen, Taoism, aboriginal awareness, and natural living. Some might discount this stuff as hippy dippy nonsense, but a peek at Turton's website (PrimalWorks.com) and a read through his extensive writings on the subject suggest a straight-forward common sense approach to these timeless principles. It's an accepted tenet in popular culture that Lennon was onto something big with his progressive views, and Turton has been refining those core ideas, putting them to use in his own songwriting.
Although Turton's main concerns as a songwriter are the heavy topics of personal, social and political change, his sound is surprisingly fun, rhythmic and—at times—full on funky.
On the road, Turton currently travels with a seven-piece band including his partner Jane Lewis on harmony vocals, his 27-year-old son Jesse on bass and local virtuoso Christine Bougie on guitar. During a show, one is likely to hear distinct moments of Delta and Chicago Blues, acoustic folk music, New Orleans soul, classic R&B, Motown and, of course, The Beatles. Unlike many bands with a broad range of influences, Turton remains true to each individual influence rather than concocting a schizophrenic sonic gumbo for listeners to sort out. The music is pure and simple, clean and groovy.
Considering Turton's emphasis on "feeling" as a songwriting principle, and informed by his work as a primal therapist, Turton's expectations for what crowd reactions to his music would be and what feeling he wants to leave listeners with are very straightforward.
"There are a couple of things," explains Turton. "There is the content of the music—the personal, social and political messages. I'm hoping people will connect to the subject matter...that it will make them think or inspire people. I want people to relate [to] and feel [the songs]. I also want the songs to have a groove and a memorable melody so that people can appreciate them on that level. A lot of my influences—Motown and R&B—are about movin' and groovin' so it's the kind of thing you can dance to but you can stop and listen to a musical phrase or solo and appreciate the detail."
As for the future, Sam has been pushing his political music in the United States. He recently returned from New York City where he has been performing at intimate, live music venues and gently introducing his political songs to the right people.
"While in New York, I got my song 'Empires Fall' into the hands of Lizz Winstead, co-creator of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and to Al Franken, both of the new liberal Air America Radio Network. 'Empire's Fall' is also being considered by producer and directors Libby Handros and John Kirby for the upcoming documentary The American Ruling Class, a critique of present U.S. policy. I have also sent the song to Michael Moore for possible inclusion in his new film Fahrenheit 911, so I've got my fingers crossed."
This summer, along with touring Ontario, Turton has dates booked throughout the North Eastern USA, from New Jersey to Maine to Michigan.
This weekend will be the first time Turton has performed in his hometown of St. Catharines since 2000.
"It feels good to bring my music home," said Turton. "St. Catharines is where it all started for me, back in 1964."