Release Date: Jul 17, 2015
Record label: Full Time Hobby
Samantha Crain has been championed and invited on tour by folk sisters First Aid Kit, though where their music supplies ringing harmonies and dappled sunlight, something more solemn broods within hers. Crain’s songs are often peopled by outsiders struggling against bitter circumstances; Elk City imagines a woman eking out a life in a crumbling town, You or the Mystery addresses a reclusive neighbour found dead in his kitchen. But though many of these songs are racked with sadness, their effect is strangely uplifting.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Samantha Crain's previous record with producer John Vanderslice, Kid Face, was a collection of rare clarity. The collaborators have returned with another wire-polished gem focused on small town life in a big, big country. Kin to Conor Oberst as much as her stated idols of Guthrie, Young and Dylan, Crain returns to the fold with Under Branch & Thorn & Tree.
Reviewing is tough. For one thing, music is an entirely subjective thing – the response an album or a song, or even a moment in a song evokes in listener is an intensely personal and individual thing. How does a writer quantify that response? How is the opinion of this writer any more valid than the opinion of anyone else? It probably isn’t. Arguments rage about whether there is such a thing as music which is objectively ‘good’, ‘great’ or ‘bad’.
The only thing the Oklahoman artist Samantha Crain is thinking of, she confides on If I Had a Dollar, “is how to get you back”. This may sound woefully plaintive, but Crain sticks to her word: aside from the skewered, St Vincent-style intro track Killer, or Big Rock, which feigns a kind of burly, truck-driving swagger, most of the songs on this record are in the style of moping traditional country and Americana ballads. “You’re all I want,” she wistfully recalls while packing up her boxes on Moving Day.
With Under Branch & Thorn & Tree, her fourth full-length LP, Samantha Crain has created her most affecting effort to date, an album that surveys a broad range of emotions and sensual suggestion. Certain songs purvey atmospheric allure — “Killer,” “Moving Day” and “All In” in particular — but when she opts to hone in on a truly gorgeous melody for the sake of conveying heartfelt sentiment, as expressed in “You Or Mystery,” “Elk City” and “When You Come Back,” the mood mellows considerably, allowing for a tender touch that’s truly radiant. Still, this Sunday morning sojourn can be elusive; she comes across as a seductive siren who rarely settles for simple songs with predictable hooks and refrains.
You know about the big releases each week, but what about the smaller albums which may have passed underneath your radar? We’ve rounded up nine of the best new album releases from this week, from Sea Of Bees’ folkie emotion to De Lux’s disco shimmies: don’t miss out..