With her fourth album, Under Branch & Thorn & Tree, Samantha Crain has hit her stride.
Five years ago in the original RPM offices in Vancouver’s Chinatown, a few weeks before the site launched, Ostwelve said to the team “do you know of Samantha Crain?” We stopped to watch the video for Santa Fe and all fell fast for her rich, almost husky croon, her sweet, inviting, folk style. We’ve all been fans ever since.
As a fan, while I’ve adored her vocal and musical style since that day, I felt as a songwriter she hadn’t yet grown into her own – not something unexpected from a young artist. With her newest release, Under Branch & Thorn & Tree, and now with years of touring and performing and living this life, Crain has grown up and into her voice as a writer and recording artist. The result is not only her best album yet, but one of the best albums this year. I’m excited we can finally say so – RPM was lucky to get an advance listen of the record and we’ve been bursting to share our praise for it.
“I don’t write protest songs in the traditional sense,” Crain told The Guardian recently, “but I’m always listening to the voices of people around me. These stories are told from the perspective of the underdog, the 99% of us that are working people. They might not be literal protest songs, but the lives of the people within these songs speak at the same volume if you listen.”
Indeed, the songs showcase nimble, poetic lyrics that tell stories of bitter circumstances, the downtrodden, and broken hearts, with a knowing intimacy that comes from the pen of an adept listener. These stories are wrapped in folk and country stylings (with an occasional synth keeping the indie cred alive and well) and despite the sombre or sad stories, they are lifted by striking imagery and elegant musicality.
Samantha Crain serenades The Dakota Tavern, Toronto, Ontario
Crain is an artist who is seemingly always on tour. Earlier this year she did a number of dates opening for Buffy Ste. Marie, she has headlined her own countless shows, and played major festivals – she is at home in front of large crowds. It was a rare treat that her current CD release tour included a stop in Toronto at the legendary but small Dakota Tavern where Crain charmed the lucky, grateful few there.
There may not be another chance to be up close for a solo performance – Under Branch & Thorn & Tree has the makings of a turning point. Catch her live show soon and get the album even sooner. If you haven’t fallen for her yet, you will now: this is the album and moody, sweet summer soundtrack you’ve been waiting for.