Why you should care
Samantha Crain is all-American in the most stirring, exhilarating ways.
Samantha Crain, a 28-year-old, part-Choctaw singer-songwriter, waits tables between tours and lives in Oklahoma, where she’s from. Her family and friends are there, and “it’s hella cheap.” With rent a passing thought (imagine that, Brooklyn and San Francisco), she can spend most of her time making music.
She may live in her home state, but Crain has come a long way since her first recordings. In the past five years alone, she’s played 250 shows; one year, she put 100,000 miles on her old Land Rover for touring. Kid Face, her 2013 release, established a focused, confident sound with its deeply personal tracks. Her new release, Under Branch & Thorn & Tree, out July 17 on Ramseur, was recorded analog in six days in San Francisco — Crain’s vocals and guitars are all first or second takes — and her team often created the arrangements in the moment.
The album, which reflects her love of rock, country and folk and her utter disinterest in hewing to genre, explores the lives of working-class women. Crain says that Kid Face “emptied her well” of personal experience, and Under Branch & Thorn & Tree was a chance to look outside herself and paint women as multidimensional people. “Elk City” tells of a woman who arrived in “a boyfriend’s coal wagon on the 40 Interstate” — later on, the man is gone, but her daughter, at least, goes to college and escapes the small town. Typically in music, Crain says, “women are either depressed and brokenhearted or manically happy.” In these 10 songs, it’s more complicated, more real and, perhaps for many of us, infinitely more relatable.
OZY is pleased to premiere this acoustic take on “When You Come Back,” shot by Nathan Poppe. It’s simple and pared down, but here as well as on the album’s orchestrated version, it’s no stretch to imagine this blowing up on the FM dial. It’s the kind of track that country majors hustle to license and make their own. Crain calls it a “go-to heartbreak song,” about “how public and weird things get during a breakup in a small town.” It’s enough to make you want to fall in love and sabotage it. Almost.