There’s something about great music that seems to combine the earthly and the earthy with something a bit more ethereal. A truly great track can be as close as we heathens get to a religious experience. And while Samantha Crain isn’t always working at that level, it’s a trick that she pulls off during the high points of her engaging album Kid Face.
This is never more true than in the wonderful ‘Paint’, an early contender for track of the year. The song twinkles and shimmers and sparkles, before being brought back down to earth by the pure country violin which seems to bring Crain’s yearning vividly to life. One of the album’s recurring themes is age and growing up. Crain is aware of her youthful appearance – hence the album’s title – and the effect it can have. In ‘Paint’ she confronts it directly, singing: “I’m almost young this year now that I am older.” Crain, though, has an abrasive edge to her voice which belies her Kid Face, coming into its own on hefty tracks like ‘Sand Paintings’ while lifting some of the less remarkable tracks above the ordinary.
Elsewhere, ‘The Pattern Has Changed’ has an understated jazz feel, while ‘Churchill’ shows off her nimbleness as both a songwriter and a musician. If the album never again quite hits the heights of ‘Paint’ there are other fine moments, like the title track, the jaunty ‘Somewhere All The Time’ and ‘For The Miner’, which sounds so strikingly like U2’s ‘One’ it would be remise not to mention it, but – with its earthy, countrified edge – is no less beautiful for it.
In album opener ‘Never Going Back’, Crain sings: “I had a deal with man and god, one let me down and one did not.” Whether or not she has a god of any description in her corner, Kid Face is certainly touched by something which lifts her above many of her country folk contemporaries.