Published on June 21st, 2013 | by Ballard Lesemann0
Samantha Crain’s Sophisticated Folk Songs Are Rock Solid
When Charleston first encountered indie singer/songwriter Samantha Crain during her inaugural tour in 2008, she was a rookie bandleader with a tight set of acoustic pop anthems and twangy Americana ballads. She had a dynamic new EP titled The Confiscation on the N.C.-based indie label Ramseur Records (home of the Avett Brothers) and a solid band called Midnight Shivers.
These days, armed with a more sophisticated collection of songs titled Kid Face (released in Feb. on Ramseur), the Oklahoma-born Native American (of Choctaw descent) seems to be in a more serious and confident mood.
“Back when I was playing with the Midnight Shivers, I used to rant and jump all over the stage,” Crain remembers. “That was really fun, and it amped up the energy in the rooms for sure. Over the years, I’ve changed a bit. For one thing, I’m older and have less energy [laughs]. For another, I’m more confident and comfortable as a performer on stage. I don’t have to lean on the showmanship side of things. I want the show to be entertaining for the audience, but I think the entertainment comes more from the music sounding spot-on with a little bit of witty banter on the side. It’s about the songs and it’s about the connection the music makes with the audience.”
Crain worked on the Kid Face sessions with pop-rock musician and studio producer John Vanderslice last summer in his San Francisco studio, Tiny Telephone. She welcomed a backing band consisting of of drummer Anne Lillis, bassist Brine Webb, keyboardist/banjo player John Calvin, violinist Daniel Foulks, guitarist/lap steel player Kyle Reid, and vocalist Anna Ash to perform on all 11 of her latest originals.
“This record was probably the most comfortable and easiest to make,” Crain says of Kid Face. “On my first record, I was playing with a band in a stressful situation where there was tension and pressure. We’re very proud of that record, but it was tough to make, On the second record [2010’s full-length You (Understood)], I was breaking up with the band and in a weird time in my life, so it was stressful, too. This time around, the songs felt really organic and honest.”
Crain found that she and Vanderslice clicked very well right off the bat last year. They’d recorded a seven-inch single before diving into the main sessions for Kid Face, so good chemistry was already in the works.
“There was anything forced about the process,” she says. “We were all in a good mood, and we all got to be really creative and bounce ideas of of each other. John would come into the booth as the songs played through, listening to them and brainstorming ideas along the way. He’s been making records for a long time, and he showed me some great tools, as far as communicating with musicians and channeling creative energy. He was awesome at that.
“I’d say it’s the best record I’ve made,” she adds. “It’s the records that best translates into a live show. I think it’s all pretty solid.”
From the strummy, frolicking opening track “Never Going Back” (see clip below) to the piano-driven ballad “The Pattern Has Changed,” there’s a natural warmth to the music of Kid Face. Compared to the innocence of The Confiscation and the hints of sorrw and sadnesss You (Understood), there’s a noticeably more upbeat or optimistic tone to the music and lyrics overall, even on the most serious and melancholic songs on the album.
“That’s a reflection of me as a person right now, I think,” Crain says. “We all go through our high and low times, especially when you’re in your early 20s when you constantly wrestle with things that ultimately don’t matter but seem like the end of the world at the time. That’s just how things go. I’m a lot more comfortable with myself and my ability to play with other musicians and interact with people now.”
Samantha Crain share the stage with the Mazloom Empire and Rachel Kate at the Tin Roof on Sat. June 22. Admission is $5. Doors open at 9 p.m. Visit samanthacrain.com for more.
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