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Video of the Moment #1890: Samantha Crain

 
By on Thursday, 27th August 2015 at 6:00 pm
 

Oklahoman singer/songwriter Samantha Crain released her fourth album ‘Under Branch & Thorn & Tree’; read Carrie’s review of the LP here. This week, she has a new promo for a song from the album, this time for ‘Kathleen’, which Carrie described as evoking “the idea of the feminine mystique” and “in which she [Crain] recalls the warmth of friendship in a simpler time”. I guess this promo is a literal interpretation of ‘the ties that bind us’, with Crain strumming her guitar in a house seemingly strung up by rope connecting a multitude of tvs, as well as the house itself to the natural and electricity-making worlds outside. Watch the video below.

All past coverage on TGTF on Samantha Crain is here.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBTJucM9l28[/youtube]

 

Video of the Moment #1867: Samantha Crain

 
By on Sunday, 26th July 2015 at 10:00 am
 

Race has always been a touchy subject in America, and the problems between the police and the public have reached a fever pitch this year in the wake of deaths of several unarmed African-American young people. In her new promo video for ‘Killer’, alt-country artist Samantha Crain has taken the opportunity to broach this sensitive subject. Directed by Houston-based filmmakers Weston Getto Allen and Dorian Electra who were inspired by recent events, the video was made at the first African-American burial ground within Houston’s city limits. They say the video “tells the story of Evan, an African American boy who dreams of becoming a police officer in order to better his community, but who is killed by the police because of the colour of his skin.” Food for thought this Sunday morning.

TGTF’s past coverage of Samantha Crain, including Carrie’s review of her most recent album ‘Under Branch & Thorn & Tree’, is this way.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Mu6sC9LV0A[/youtube]

 

Album Review: Samantha Crain – Under Branch & Thorn & Tree

 
By on Friday, 17th July 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

SCrain Under Branch coverOn her fourth album ‘Under Branch & Thorn & Tree’, Oklahoma singer/songwriter Samantha Crain purveys a solid alt-country style that, ironically, aligns her more closely to the genre’s folk and blues roots than most of her modern mainstream counterparts. The wide thematic range of Crain’s songwriting extends from songs with political undertones, to narrative stories and character portraits, to heartrending romantic ballads. The instrumental arrangements of the songs are suitably varied, and Crain’s unique vocal delivery is exquisitely sensitive to each, alternating seamlessly between strident bitterness and soft introspection, finding all of the subtle shades of grey in between.

As stated in the press release for the album, Crain “has a jazz singer’s phrasing, often breaking words into rhythmic fragments that land before and after the beat, stretching syllables or adding grace notes to uncover hidden nuances in her lyrics.” This characteristic is immediately noticeable in the album’s first single ‘Outside the Pale’, which we featured in this Bands to Watch piece back in June. The song is sensual and dramatic overall, with a minor key string intro and deliberately unbalanced rhythms, especially in the repeated title lyric of the chorus, which echoes in the memory long after the song is over.

‘Under Branch & Thorn & Tree’ opens with a strong hook in ‘Killer’, whose slow, shuffling percussion and bass groove underlies the woozy, drunken feeling created by its uneven lyrical flow and weirdly ethereal synth strings. Crain delivers her brash, confrontational verse lyrics with measured precision, but it’s in the song’s brief refrain “they say the worst is over, the lowest reached / but it’s such a long road, keep marching” where her singing voice truly shines.

Crain evokes the idea of the feminine mystique in the folky ballad ‘Kathleen’, in which she recalls the warmth of friendship in a simpler time: “but there was a golden braid and an open ear / a funny joke and a lack of fear / the clock out of work, the joy of Kathleen”. The thread of that friendship carries through to ‘Elk City’, as Crain weaves a narrative of becoming trapped in a small town. While perhaps inelegant, Crain’s lyrics are evocative in their blunt honesty: the verse “I almost moved to Dallas / with my best friend Kathleen / but I met a guy at the Longhorn / he said he could fix my washing machine”, for example.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/3z0EgX15MG4[/youtube]

‘Big Rock’ is an uptempo country track whose twangy lap steel and gritty guitars belie its lyrics, which talk about being stuck in a rut while life around you moves on. Like many country songs of its ilk, its chorus is catchy and optimistic in spite of the trouble: “but its a big rock / a big flat rock / make myself a little home / even though I’m all alone / the view’s alright”.

Crain presents a beguiling character study in ‘You or the Mystery’, whispering introspectively through the lyrical lines “he seemed like a sad man / and he slammed all the doors / never drew up his curtains / he was small and pale on the porch” over a slow, shadowy instrumental arrangement. ‘All In’ is similarly introspective, though more vaguely abstract and musically austere.

The poignant ballads ‘When You Come Back’ and ‘Moving Day’ are both plain-spoken and plaintive, the former dealing with the very public pain of a romantic breakup in a small town, the latter taking a glimpse into a more private and intimate moment between former lovers. The vocal duet in the penultimate verse of ‘When You Come Back’ intensifies the heartache of that song, while ‘Moving Day’ employs a sweeter vocal tone and a heartwrenching harmonic modulation under the lyrics “I know the day is gone / I missed the dawn far too long ago / could you hear me out? / I see it now, I’m not too proud” to achieve the same heightened effect.

With ‘Under Branch & Thorn & Tree’, Samantha Crain has created and curated an engaging series of vignettes portraying the darker side of life in small-town America. Her attention to detail, both in her poetry and her vocal delivery, will delight singer/songwriter aficionados. Fans of fellow alt-country divas Natalie Prass and Caitlin Rose will likely find the album appealing to their tastes as well. Even you normally cringe at the thought of a stereotypical country twang, you might stop and reconsider after listening to Crain’s example of what finely-crafted authentic country music can sound like.

8.5/10

‘Under Branch & Thorn & Tree’ is out today, the 17th of July, on Full Time Hobby. Samantha Crain was in session with Marc Riley last week, and you can listen to the session on BBC iPlayer here. She will play a run of live dates in the UK this August. For all past TGTF coverage of Samantha Crain, go here.

 

Samantha Crain / August 2015 UK Tour

 
By on Friday, 5th June 2015 at 9:00 am
 

Oklahoma singer/songwriter Samantha Crain will bring her Americana-style folk tunes to the UK for a brief tour this summer, following the release of her new album ‘Under Branch & Thorn & Tree’, which is due out on the 17th of July.  In addition to the following live dates, Crain will also appear in Perth at the Southern Fried Festival of Americana roots music on the 31st of July and the 1st of August.

Tickets for the following shows, except Glasgow and Brighton, are available now.  Detailed ticket information and a full listing of Crain’s upcoming live shows can be found on her official Web site.  For our recent Bands to Watch feature on Samantha Crain, go here.

Sunday 2nd August 2015 – Glasgow Broadcast
Monday 3rd August 2015 – Leeds Brudenell Social Club
Tuesday 4th August 2015 – Manchester Gullivers
Wednesday 5th August 2015 – Bristol Louisiana
Thursday 6th August 2015 – London Sebright Arms
Friday 7th August 2015 – Brighton Hope and Ruin

 

Bands to Watch #349: Samantha Crain

 
By on Wednesday, 3rd June 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

American folk singer/songwriter Samantha Crain studied English literature at Oklahoma Baptist University before embarking on her songwriting career, so it should come as no surprise that her songs reveal a particular talent for interweaving sound and story. Crain’s Oklahoma roots are evident both in her musical style, which is firmly rooted in classic Americana, and in her lyrical references to character and place. Her third album and UK debut release ‘Kid Face’ opens with the striking lyric “This horse kicked me in the heart then asked me if I want another start” before taking off into the galloping rhythm of ‘Never Going Back’. Throughout the album, Crain’s singing voice is rich and intense, with just a hint of grit sneaking into its timbre here and there, and her delivery has a very natural rhythmic tendency, as evidenced in the sultry swing of ‘Taught to Lie’, and the slow shuffle of the album’s title track, featured in the live performance video below.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/2G86W_zg0ow[/youtube]

Crain has recently followed up on ‘Kid Face’ with a new track called ‘Outside the Pale’. Immediately distinctive with a prominent bowed string instrumentation over the usual percussion and guitar, the song is equally striking in the defiant perspective of its lyrics: “the underdogs of human thought within the infrared / you and I, we tell the stories the TV won’t release / they keep us in the wild, under branch and thorn and tree / outside the pale”. While Crain doesn’t specifically intend to write protest songs, she says that her stories “are told from the perspective of the underdog, the 99% of us that are working people. They might not be literal protest songs, but the lives of the people within these songs speak at the same volume if you listen.”

The aforementioned ‘Outside the Pale’ lyric also contains the title to Crain’s upcoming fourth album ‘Under Branch & Thorn & Tree’. The new album continues in the vein of ‘Kid Face’, with Crain once again enlisting John Vanderslice for production duties, but it takes a more dramatic musical tone, often diverging into jazz territory with its expansive instrumental arrangements and subtly nuanced rhythmic ideas. Standout track ‘Kathleen’ showcases the full expressive range of Crain’s singing voice, from her blissfully light upper register tones down to the velvety texture of her lower notes. By contrast, the steady chugging tempo of ‘Big Rock’ is rough around the edges, gaining traction in the rhythm section as Crain sings through the single-mindedly determined chorus. The full album ‘Under Branch & Thorn & Tree’ is due for release on the 17th of July via indie label Full Time Hobby, but you can stream ‘Outside the Pale’ just below, courtesy of Full Time Hobby’s Soundcloud.

 
 
 

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