Under Branch & Thorn & Tree - Samantha Crain
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Review of "Under Branch & Thorn & Tree - Samantha Crain"
Now writing music gig reviews for free tickets. Sorry ciao, less time for you now; just wish you hadn't stopped paying for music reviews.
While I often preference loud bouncy music, I do have a soft spot for intensively sad narratives about the human condition; lyrics are often important to me. Native American “Oakie” Samantha Crain’s latest album, the 2015 released Under Branch & Thorn & Tree contains some of the best song lyrics I’ve heard in a long time, and not least in the song Elk City.
Under Branch & Thorn & TreeWe managed to catch Samantha on her 6 date promo tour of the UK last week (an “intimate” setting in the upstairs stage area of Gulliver’s Pub in Manchester) where we had a magical evening with her and her excellent UK support, Benjamin Benedict. The way Samantha tells it, the inspiration for the song Elk City happened when she stopped for a coffee while driving through one of those out of the way places in Oklahoma and a woman got talking to her and shared her life story. As well as have a lovely narrative, the song shows off Samantha’s finger plucking skills on the old guitar. Given that Crain must be about four foot eight in her stocking feet, it felt like a bit of a struggle for her hands to reach one end of her guitar to the other.
The song Elk City is about a woman who at the age of 17 ran away from home with her boyfriend and she rather got stuck in a depressed town after the main employer factory shut down. Crain’s voice isn’t exactly classically beautiful but it has an interesting and expressive quality. Crain’s voice always reminds me of another artist I adore, Melanie (Safka) and there’s a little of the avant garde Yoko Ono although it doesn’t wobble all over the place like Yoko’s; it’s just strong, clear and confident. All in all, Samantha Crain specialises in a very clever and modern version of folk music with a country bent. It has the feel of Springsteen’s Nevada or The River and definitely describes the struggle of the poor people.Kathleen is the “hit” of the album; the most accessible and light of the tracks on what is generally a serious and understated collection of songs. It has a nice catchy chorus and a regular relaxed guitar pattern and seems to be about a woman enjoying her gin out of a Styrofoam cup. You have to grab the happiness you can in Crain’s rather gritty world. Killer opens the album and sees Crain with a strident voice which brings Ono to mind. The song is inspired by about the recent needless deaths of young black men by the Police in the USA. I enjoy songs that shine a light upon current affairs and political events and this one is a moving track; the accompanying video suggests a young black kid who wants to be a Police Officer when he grows up but who ends up being needlessly killed. Outside the Pale is another interesting track and where Crain highlights that the mainstream media doesn’t trouble to tell the stories and lives of everyday folk, when in fact these are the important things. The song has a nice urgent pace to it.
Under Branch & Thorn & Tree is Crain’s fourth album and given the quality of the recordings, and the warm friendliness of Crain live, it does seem a complete mystery as to why she is still travelling from gig to gig on the train and that her music hasn’t achieved more of a mark. I guess more of us swallow the media thing and prefer to see what Katie Price is up to rather than think about the impact of welfare benefit cuts. I can’t help but reflect that we are sleep walking into a new world of surf and master and artists like Crain offer an important alternative.
You or the Mystery was another highlight of the live gig, where Crain sings about a lonely neighbour who was found dead and speculates whether she will miss the man or the mystery of his rarely glimpsed life. Again, this is a very well played guitar based folk song. When You Come Back is a deeply sad love song about a ditched woman who cannot get her former lover out of her head. I like the particularly expressive way in which the song is delivered.
If I Had A Dollar is a lovely track where love has more power than money; this time around Crain has enough of the green stuff but without her man it is all worthless. All I Want is a very emotional track where Crain’s expressive voice comes to the fore, and it’s about moving home and while they haven’t got much, they are at least together. From the album I make it that Crain has split up with someone twice and found someone else twice... I can only conclude that her love life is far more traumatic than mine...
Summing UpCrain doesn’t really put a step wrong with this album, although it might be described as hard hitting. There are some different tempos and a good mix of songs about difficult lives and relationships. Crain’s voice demands attention and I like that it has a slightly edgy and different quality. Musically, the album has a nice stripped back US folk-country feel to it, and if you like the sound of Springsteen during his The River or Nevada period then this will be your kind of thing.
Once again it’s a crying shame that an artist like Samantha Crain can play in Manchester to a scant 150 people, although it was a happy day for me as I got a close up and personal performance. However, in cr01 world Samantha Crain should be effortlessly gracing the top of the charts. Totally recommended; if you have a spare 5 minutes go and check her out
Product Information : Under Branch & Thorn & Tree - Samantha Crain
Manufacturer's product description
Sub Genre: Contemporary Folk
Original Release Year: 2015
Label: Full Time Hobby
Studio / Live: Studio
Title: Under Branch & Thorn & Tree
Performer: Samantha Crain
Pieces in Set: 1
Listed on Ciao since: 21/07/2015