“I had a deal with man and God. One let me down and one did not so I made my way back home. Oh, I thought I’d never go back,” Samantha Crain sings on “Never Going Back,” the opening track of her new album, Kid Face. Freed from her romantic relationship, the native Oklahoman reflects on the relationship’s collateral damage (“Taught to Lie”), her own world view (“Churchill”), and the state of the world today (“Somewhere All The Time,” “Ax”) as she takes stock of her first 26 years.
“What is spare time? I spend all of mine trying to figure this out,” Crain jokes on “The Pattern Has Changed” as she wonders what to do without a hectic tour schedule. The wit continues on “Paint.” “I’m almost young this year now that I’m older,” she sings. These smaller, but real issues provide balance to the weightier moments like “For the Miner” when she asks “Did you get used it or are you still up with the demons all night?”
Kid Face is a brilliant lesson about economy in composition. Four of the eleven tracks are tight two and a half minute packages saying exactly what they need and nothing more. The strings, piano and percussion are arranged unobtrusively, but timed for maximum impact. Everything helps to illustrate Crain’s distinctive voice, which is best described as having the sharp edge of Joanna Newsome with the depth of Sharon Van Etten.
The best example of the above is “The Patten Has Changed.” Crain’s woebegone voice carries this lament while sombre piano comes in only when a chord change is necessary. Strings gently pluck at the end of each phrase until the climax when they get a couple bowed accents. All in 2 minutes and 31 seconds. It ends in a silence that will likely be broken by listeners whispering, “Good. Lord.”
Samantha Crain has long been an opening act for musicians like Justin Townes Earle, Langhorne Slim and The Avett Brothers, but the stunning Kid Face could send her to the top of the bill soon.
Kid Face will be release on Ramseur Records on February 19.
Samantha Crain will play at The Soapbox in Wilmington on February 9.