When Philadelphia singer-songwriter Sam Rise took part in the WXPN Black Opry Residency in 2023, their breathtaking acoustic chops and engaging lyrical storytelling made a big impact on first-timers and fans alike. Solo and solitary, they can command a room — as they’ve done for years at SoFAR shows, open mics, and countless other gigs around the city and country — but seeing Rise with a live band takes their art to a whole other level.

For this week’s Key Studio Session, Rise is joined by an exceptional team of players — Mel Regn on drums, Chris Coyle on bass, Mike Kennedy on pedal steel, and RIPLEY on guitar — and they collectively stretch their music into expansive genre-fluid realms that touch on jazz, folk, country, and rock. It’s a lush presentation of Rise’s creative vision that underscores the stirring emotive content of their lyrics, and being part of a team of players frees them up to focus on those words and stories.

This three-song Key Studio Session is entirely made up of unreleased songs, and they are simultaneously distinct from and complimentary of Rise’s work as a community organizer and activist. The opening groove of “Sometimes Boy” looks at gender beyond the binary, as a journey everyone is on. As Rise poetically describes, it’s “about staying curious and knowing who and how you are, and not necessarily having and answer, but living a very gorgeous question.” The closing “Cemetery” is one that’s been in Rise’s live repertoire for a long time, and is dedicated to the youth of Southwest Philadelphia: “Every kid deserves to be able to see themselves into a future they want to grow old into,” they say. “I don’t know that we’re doing the best job at making it possible for our young people to really see themselves into a future they deserve. I want us to all do to better at every level. I’m looking at you, Philadelphia.” In the middle, “Rearview” is a dusty yet tender road song about love, regret, and forgiveness.

Sam Rise’s music is full of heart and empathy, and you can experience it further this Saturday, when they perform at the third annual Sweet Juice Fest. Tickets and more information can be found at the festival website. Below, watch Sam Rise and their band’s Key Studio Session in full.

Sam Rise - The Key Studio Sessions (Full Set)

“Sometimes Boy”