First things first – Under Branch & Thorn & Tree is a very good record, nay, it is an extremely good record. Transcending the ‘folk’ tag attached to her following the release of her eponymous debut, Samantha Crain has produced an album with roots in classical music, Americana and soundscapes. With a world-weary voice, Crain’s stories are weaved around some expert production.
‘Kathleen’, the lead single, is an acoustic tale about a woman who ‘grumbles at the telephone’, who epitomises the ‘colours of the night/the darkness around the light’. ‘Elk City’ sees Crain weave a yarn around the true story of a 17-year-old woman, who moved to the ‘big city’ with a boyfriend, only to find herself pregnant after a one night stand, ‘waiting for a baby/first and my last’. The woman becomes stuck in Elk City, her grown-up daughter ‘beating her mama out of that town’. The strings accompaniment add gravitas to what Crain sings about, and the sadness about this woman’s plight is evident in Crain’s delivery.
‘Outside the Pale’ is a more up-tempo number, which sees Crain challenge the pitfalls of American society; “You and I, we tell the stories the TV won’t release”, whilst ‘Big Rock’ almost lives up to its name, providing a slice of rock ‘n’ roll which sees Crain and band run through a jaunty 3 minute tale of rising to the top from humble beginnings. On a record which is three quarters introspective, these two tracks do help to break the pace up, and help make the record more memorable as a result.
Some very good production, aided with an able band, have enabled Crain to release a record which is one of 2015’s best, and goes some way to distancing herself from the ‘folk-pop’ revival tag unfairly attached to her. Under Branch & Thorn & Tree is a set of ten great tracks, each sung with Crain’s heartfelt sincerity.
Samantha Crain’s new video for ‘Killer’ focuses on police brutality in African-American communities.