Sam Wickens is without a doubt one of Northern Ireland’s most exciting rising talents. Not only has he been compared to Jeff Buckley, John Martin and Lou Reed. In 2016 he gained Tony Visconti (yes, the Tony Visconti!) as a mentor and with his guidance continued to hone his craft. Not bad for a young lad from Bangor eh?
As an artist who’s gathered a reputation of being somewhat of an enigma, ‘All I’ve Seen’ gives us a glimpse into the hypnotic world of Sam Wickens. Keen to distance himself from the image of the stereotypical singer-songwriter armed with an acoustic guitar and a loop pedal, Wickens delivers an album of soul-infused folk.
Falling opens with a fluctuating synth and throbbing drum beat, but it’s Wickens’ vocals that really shine through here. There’s a sincerity in his lyrics as he croons: “You can’t keep praying for change, if you’re staying the same”, it’s a rare find in someone so early into their career. What sets Wickens apart in this game is his creative flair. He’s not afraid to experiment, as showcased on the ambient yet alluring Ice.
Stripping it back on Cliffside and Forest, Wickens allows his ability as a songwriter to centre stage. His lyrics are poetic and often laden with symbolism. There are even several religious undertones throughout on Eden and Jericho. However, this is not an album of gospel and Wickens asserts he is no preacher as he croons on Forest, “Never needed to repent when most my sins I just forget”. On Forest Wickens tackles one of life’s darkest topics. Not one to shy away from speaking up about his own struggles he sings, “My depression’s now a trend, I burned the candle at both ends”, highlighting the confessional elements to his songwriting that lie amongst the symbolism.
Stand out track, Ravens & Crows is a hauntingly beautiful ballad that hooks you in from that mournful string intro. Wickens raw vocals are his strength once more as he transforms a song of pain into something wonderful. You will have this one on repeat.
Closing the album Wickens has taken a change of direction one final time with the radio-friendly, pop number Jericho. With it’s a simple guitar rhythm alongside upbeat percussion, it’s nothing like previous tracks and serves to remind us how difficult it would be to pin Wickens down to one particular genre – a true testament to his diversity as an artist.
‘All I’ve Seen’ is a collection of ten tracks of love, lust, sorrow and joy told in the most entrancing of ways. Constantly evolving with each track unlike the one before it.
‘All I’ve Seen’ is a truly compelling debut that brings Sam Wickens out of the shadows and catapults him to his deserved place in the spotlight.