The young, up-and-coming Les Sampou may be a relative newcomer to the international folk/blues festival circuit, but she writes songs like she's been around forever. Her record deal came about relatively easily compared to the way a lot of blues and folk singers struggle in obscurity for years before being discovered. The Boston-based Sampou released an album herself, Sweet Perfume (1994), before being signed to Flying Fish/Rounder Records in 1995. Although by that point she'd already made the rounds of coffeehouses and folk festivals around the Northeast, it wasn't until after the release of her debut, Fall from Grace, that she began to take on a national and international profile. Although it's easy to call her a contemporary blues singer, and she does play blues exceedingly well, there's a singer/songwriter side of her that comes out on her debut album in songs like "The Things I Should've Said" and "Home Again." Other tracks, like "Weather Vane" and "Fall from Grace," show her bluesier side.
Sampou did not get the music bug until she was in her early twenties, after seeing Ellen McIlwaine at a coffeehouse in Cambridge, MA. Shortly after that revelatory experience, Sampou began taking lessons, learning acoustic blues from Boston-based acoustic blues master Paul Rishell. After she began getting steady work in coffeehouses around the ultra-competitive Boston scene in the late '80s and early '90s, she made the break and quit her day job as a part-time editor to pursue her musical dreams. The initial result was a superb album, Sweet Perfume, her self-released 1994 debut. The follow-up, Fall from Grace (1996), is even better, and shows that Sampou is equally at home playing traditional blues, self-penned blues, or self-penned ballads. Harmonica player Jerry Portnoy, a great songwriter himself, can be heard as well. A self-titled LP followed in 1999. ~ Richard Skelly