Sam Pace has the sort of voice that can command a room by dint of sheer menacing authority, an apocalyptic roar that calls to mind the bellowing of bedrock bluesmen like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, with Pace reimagining their Alpha-blues swagger within the context of modern-day rock ‘n’ roll.
That puissant swagger is embedded in Pace’s very being, though not in such a way as to come off as overbearing or false. The Austin-based musician simply seems like a man who’s paid his dues, and whose ample musical chops are more than sufficient to buttress the considerable confidence he has in his work.
“After all these years and all the hard touring, I’ve come out as a fully evolved artist, with a fully evolved vision and a fully evolved band,” Pace says. “I still stand by the work I did earlier in my career, but what I’m doing now is like a whole other thing.”
Growing up in Milwaukee, Pace started playing guitar at age 15, but didn’t have his musical epiphany until age 20. “That’s when I got tunnel vision,” he says. “I got serious. I said, this is what I want to do with the rest of my life.”
Already an able guitar player, Pace says that was the point he undertook the daunting project of transforming his rasping, errant singing voice into a capable instrument unto itself. “I was a terrible singer,” he says with a laugh. “But I wanted to sing, and there was no one around who was singing what I wanted to hear. So I practiced and I practiced, for years. And it paid off. I’ve always been a pretty willful individual.”
But while Pace’s guitar education came courtesy of classic ’60s and ’70s-era blues-rock stylists like Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, Pace dug back into the source material of the Blues itself in teaching himself to sing –drawing from the unfiltered emotional catharsis of early Delta artists, from the vocal ebullience of later Chicago bluesmen, from the bluster and bravado of transitional figures like the aforementioned Waters and Wolf.
“Blues is the root of all good and evil,” Pace says. “It’s pure and raw and true. It’s funny. It’s sad. It’s triumphant. It’s pathetic. There is no bullshit in it. The Blues speak to me in a way that no other form of music is able to.”
Pace has been living in Austin about three years now, having put together his crack trio the Gilded Grit soon after moving there from Chicago. Together, they’ve released three full-length records of barnstorming neo-blues with a hard-rock kick that falls just shy of heavy metal. Now Pace has a plan to release a new record in two stages over the course of the next year; the next few months will see the release of the four-song “Judgment Eve Part I” EP, followed by the release of the full-fledged 11-song “Judgment Eve” in spring of next year.
“Those first four songs are very intense, very rhythmically powerful,” Pace says. “They’re meant to pump people up. The rest of the record is really diverse. It’s hard to describe what all will be on there, but it will blow people away. The plan then is to take it on the road, try to meet people and taken this thing to the next level, to bigger stages.
“We’re grateful for what we’ve gotten so far, but we want a whole lot more, and we’re hungry for that next level. And I think we can get there because there’s nothing quite like the music we’re going to be putting out there. It’s a force to be reckoned with.”
Sam Pace and the Gilded Grit will play Preservation Pub Thursday, Sept. 14 at 10 p.m.