When listening through Sam Riggs’ Breathless, what’s most important is to take it as a whole package, rather than a sum of its parts. The project contains both strong standouts and a few low points, leading to an album that is a very consistent, well executed piece of music.
The album kicks off with “The Lucky Ones,” a song that boasts a superb melody and is both well produced and exceptionally performed with heart and conviction. It also introduces a theme that is common for the rest of the album, that being songs built around hooks and choruses. The likes of “Gravity” and “Breathless” are supported by catchy choruses and melodies that, in a way, mask their lyrical inefficiencies. Of course, it doesn’t always work. “Wake the Dead” lacks cohesiveness, with an uptempo pace that comes off a bit jarring and a restrained production that feels forced (the producers would have been better off going with a sound closer to that of Kip Moore stadium rock). Meanwhile, “High on a Country Song,” despite coming off as relatively genuine, is a low point on the album, with its overwrought production and less connective songwriting.
Those two are the exceptions however, as the majority of the tracks are decently written, with some definite standouts. “One More Chance to Stay” is an excellent, toned-down heartbreak song that shows off Riggs’ strengths as a vocalist. He continues to shine on the subdued moments, with “To Save Something You Love” and the masterpiece “Secondhand Smoke” (the album’s strongest moment) also standing out as ones worth listening to on repeat.
Despite not having the range of a Chris Stapleton or a David Nail, Riggs still stands out as an excellent technical vocalist, and an even better interpreter, with each song being portrayed earnestly and with conviction. Additionally, there isn’t a single moment that couldn’t be described as fully country, with the worst offenders barely scraping solidly pop-country.
With strong melodic structure, radio-friendly production and lots of safe songwriting, Sam Riggs could break out if given the chance. While Breathless is hardly a lyrical masterpiece, it is a solid album that comes recommended. Will it knock your socks off? Moments – specifically the acoustic version of “Secondhand Smoke” will. Though there’s room for improvement, it’s an overall strong effort from the Texas star.
Top Tracks: “Secondhand Smoke,” “To Save Something You Love,” “One More Chance to Stay”