One of the nice things about having creative friends is that you enjoy and pay attention to their work, and it inspires you to produce work yourself. It’s an effect of the originating energy of all art. It’s fecund and collaborative. Sam Weis is an artist I’ve been friends with for so long I can’t accurately pinpoint the day we met, though I do know it was at the Deli Natural Restaurant in Cedar Rapids, the town where we both lived in the late 1970s. She was the most proficient guitarist out of a group of 20-30 of us that performed at weekly open mike nights.
Sam’s a generous musician. She allowed and even encouraged people (like me) who were not at her level to perform songs with her. She was game to try almost any style of folk, rock, or country music. In those days she mostly played and sang songs written by others, plus a few instrumentals of her own composition. Writing good lyrics must be harder than playing instruments, because half the participants could play decently well, and not one produced so much as a single phrase worth repeating years later. We all had a lot of fun singing other people’s songs, drinking and laughing though. It was a Petrie dish for novice performers.
We played record albums we liked for each other. We struggled to figure out the beautiful, strange guitar tunings used by Leo Kottke and Joni Mitchell. This was long before the Internet, when that kind of knowledge was an occult treasure passed person-to-person between players. We helped each other learn, and tried out things we were working on at visits to each other’s homes. I moved on to garage bands. Sam was in a folk duo act, and then a women’s power trio. We each transitioned out of and into romantic relationships. We moved to other states. I went to California and “the biz”. Sam moved to Washington.
After a few years spent separately quibbling with our destinies, we both gave up the dating game and entered the permanent, supportive partnerships we enjoy now. We like each other’s spouses. I still work too much to visit them often, but I love dropping in on Sam’s performances to say hello and share a hug with she and Renee. The best part of this story is the ending. Sam Weis became a well-respected and beloved artist in her new home, the Pacific Northwest. She and Renee have a horse farm, Sam takes time to make amazing paintings, and she has recorded six CDs. The newest, called Paradox, has just been released.
The spark for this current project of hers is an interesting collaboration between she and her neighbor, accomplished abstract painter Christopher Mathie. When she hung out with Christopher and began playing, it made him want to paint! They began presenting this phenomenon in public shows. He paints while she plays. People came from far and wide to watch, eat, drink, and buy his art and her CDs. Sam began writing new material to perform in their shows.
Sam never stopped moving forward. I admire that. She learned to write clean, accessible lyrics, and now she can offer anything from contemplative, classic American fingerstyle instrumentals to kick-ass pop songs. There’s a song from the new CD that spoke to me immediately. It’s simple, direct, in-the-moment poetry:
Rivers may flow.
Hard winds may blow.
Old friends may die.
We don’t know why.
But when the stars come out,
I will dance with you.
If you like what you’ve heard here, you can buy Sam’s work from her web site http://www.samweis.net/enter, on iTunes at http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/paradox/id499619195, or at CD Baby here: http://www.cdbaby.com/artist/SamWeis