Album Review: Samm Henshaw – Untidy Soul

Words by Jojo Silva

Every so often, a project comes along that fills a chasm or void. Untidy Soul achieves this and more. 

Henshaw succeeds in capturing the collective need we’ve all felt of late to experience joy, to pursue growth, embrace humility and to be our authentic, vulnerable selves: however messy or cluttered that journey may be. Industry heads are quick to label a project as “long-awaited”. If ever there was an album we were “eagerly anticipating” – this is it. Just ask the 2000-strong crowd who (on a bitter and rather gloomy Thursday evening) flocked to Shepherds Bush armed with every number-one-fan’s badge of honour: perfectly rehearsed lyrics to a relatively recent project. Despite being Henshaw’s debut album, it doesn’t reek of the inexperience, uncertainty or the kind of disorganised experiment that can sometimes taint an artist’s first step on the industry ladder. This is the work of a man who lives and breathes his craft and has done since he started making moves in 2015. The result? 12 tracks of pure heart, soul and warmth – the amalgamation of this South Londoner’s church-choir roots and his journey of self-discovery. Think gospel. Think soul. Think R&B. 

Thematically, it’s difficult to label Untidy Soul; the first listen alone will have you wading through memories of your first heartbreak, craving ‘Chicken Wings’ or reflecting on our reckless need to find “love inside a paycheck”. There doesn’t seem to be one theme or golden thread unifying this album, but this is in no way a criticism. A collection of feelings and experiences, the title ‘Untidy Soul’ makes more and more sense as the album unfolds. After the intro, Henshaw delivers on Thoughts and Prayers. Listeners are confronted with “blood on (our) hands” and the stark self-realisation that perhaps if we truly cared we would indeed “give more than thoughts and prayers”. Henshaw’s ability to capture this current mood comes across as effortless here as it does on ‘Grow’. He comments on the blissful moments we return to in romantic relationships when the mundane seems to take over: “If I had it my way it’d be Friday/ We’d be chilling on a driveway/ Bumping Sade.” The singer’s writing style allows us to go on this journey with him – Henshaw is personable, relatable and succeeds in bringing listeners closer and closer with references to the many woes and wins of modern life. In ‘Loved by You’ he offers himself as his lover’s “Uber driver when it gets late”. The mood shifts when we reach ‘East Detroit’, an ode to melodic RnB laced with Henshaw’s soothing vocals as he reflects on the aches and pains that accompany a splintered love affair. 

Henshaw ties the project together with his final track ‘Joy’, once again blessing us with the kind of intimacy that increases our fondness for the album. We are fortunate enough to hear the wise words of his father, a pastor, beautifully weaved throughout a song that puts an optimistic full-stop on what truly is a glorious listen. 

Listen and Purchase Untidy Soul here

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