NH's Joe Sambo riding wave of reggae success

Salem native Joe Sambo is infusing some warm-weather reggae into New Hampshire. His debut album was the highest selling reggae album in the first week in May, according to Billboard.

Earlier this month, Joe Sambo, an independent artist from Salem, had the highest-ranking debut reggae album on Billboard.com.

Sambo released the album, “The Wrong Impression,” on April 20. By the week of May 4, he had reached the No. 1 spot for the genre.

“This is my first full-length album,” Sambo said.

Alex Vitoulis at Billboard said the ranking is based on physical and digital album sales in the United States and Puerto Rico. It’s not uncommon for performers reaching that top spot to be independent artists.

The album includes 12 songs, including Sambo’s hit single “How We Do,” which was the No. 1 reggae song on iTunes for two weeks after it dropped in February.

“I’m from New Hampshire, and it’s really just about gearing up to release reggae music — but being in a cold climate,” Sambo said. “Some of the lyrics mention New Hampshire and where I’m from and what the vibe is here.”

The Salem native recorded the album at Revelry Studios in Manchester, where he also filmed some of his music videos.

An album release show in Key West, Fla., sold out to about 250 attendees, and Sambo estimates he’s sold about 700 to 800 albums since then.

The album is available on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play. He said it’s been in the top 50 albums on the iTunes charts since he released it. It’s available for $10 on iTunes. He also sells CDs at his shows.

“It hasn’t even been a month, and I’ve gotten 50,000 streams on Spotify,” Sambo said.

Sambo said he was in a metal band called Spies Like Us from 2007 to 2013, but pivoted to reggae after working at Bull Moose record store in Salem and listening to more “Americanized reggae rock” from groups like Sublime and Slightly Stoopid, as well as funk.

“Funk is my main influence. I like mixing up funk, soul and reggae all together,” Sambo said.

He used to hire a band called The Quins to perform with him, but has been playing more solo shows for the past three years.

“But they’re killing it on their own, so we separated ways recently,” Sambo said.

Last year, he estimates he performed at about 200 shows, mostly solo. But he hired a new band to play with him under the Joe Sambo title, which will include Alex Brander on drums, Mark King on bass and Kyle Morrison on guitar. Sambo also plays guitar.

Sambo said they are former members of reggae group The Elovators and Big D and the Kids Table, a ska band.

He’ll be opening for The Wailers Band (the remaining members of Bob Marley and the Wailers) at Marty’s Driving Range in Mason on Saturday, June 1, and his first headlining show of the summer will be Thursday, June 20, at Bernie’s Beach Bar in Hampton.

He said his songs have a common theme of giving people hope and appealing to people’s better angels.

Upcoming shows can be seen online at joesambo.com and music videos are on Youtube.com/joesambomusic.