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Samantha Crain exhibits youthful innocence and mature songwriting on her fifth album, "Kid Face," released Tuesday, Feb. 19 on Ramseur Records. A skilled guitarist like Joni Mitchell with the unfiltered expression of Regina Spektor; Crain's delightful voice serves as the perfect complement for her heartfelt lyrics.
The 26-year-old from Shawnee, Okla., draws from her Choctaw Indian roots and combines modern sensibility with an authentic pastoral style. She seems to have something to prove with this release - that she can produce compelling songs that encompass a broad range of styles.
Coming out of the gate strong on the first track, "Never Going Back," which fully display Crain's talent as a songwriter and storyteller. There are beautifully quiet moments like piano laden tale of heartbreak, "The Pattern Has Changed." There's a great retro-sounding track, "Taught to Lie," that utilizes some great production to make Crain's voice sound haunting.
My favorite track is "Churchill," a finger-picked folk song that speaks volumes in its abbreviated refrain: "So blame me for what I can not finish/ My whole life I thought I was an opportunist/ But I'm not."
Crain said during her set at Woodyfest in July that she wrote "For the Miner" for singer songwriter Jason Molina. Without his knowledge, she has been writing songs in response to his songs for about five years. The title was supposed to be directed at Molina, which it turns out actually translates to "miller," not "miner." If she hadn't told us, I'm sure we never would have known. And besides, it doesn't detract from her solid performance.
Fans of the folk revival sound played by bands like the Lumineers and the Avett Brothers will happily repeat the album's title track, "Kid Face." It incorporates an under-powered rock 'n' roll rhythm that is slight in its approach, matching Crain's delicate voice.
Crain's approach to the acoustic guitar is wonderful - her style is immersive and draws in the listener between notes and well crafted melodies. It provides a solid base for her build upon and allows more creativity to flow from her backing band. It's that freedom between songs that attribute to the airiness of tracks on "Kid Face." Crain's voice coupled with the backing band sounds expansive and unending.
In the studio for "Kid Face," Crain was joined by drummer Anne Lillis, bassist Brine Webb, John Calvin Abney on piano, synthesizer and banjo; violinist Daniel Foulks; Kyle Reid on lap steel, cigar box guitar, electric guitar; and vocalist Anna Ash.
Crain even has a Sheryl Crow moment on this album in the "Somewhere All the Time," mastering the delicate balance incorporating traditional country music style with modern sensibility.
Crain may have left the best for last on this album, with "We've Been Found" serving as the 11th and last track.
"I’m not mad, I’m conflicted
You're not bad, you are lifted
From yourself, with your landlike heart
And I’m your clone, that’s what makes it hard
Oh, we’ve been found."
- We've been Found
Fans of folk singer-songwriters should definitely find Samantha Crain's latest album appealing and will be on the lookout for critical recognition after her SXSW performance.
Tell me what your favorite track is from "Kid Face" on Twitter @DBCurrent #TheHighNote.
Read the High Note with Shaun Smith every Saturday on shorenewstoday.com.