Samantha Crain ‘Under Branch & Thorn & Tree’ Album Review

“I don’t write protest songs in the traditional sense, 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.” – Samantha Crain

Samantha Crain‘s fourth album, Under Branch & Thorn & Tree is a finely wrought affair, suffused with poetic lyrics and gorgeous singing. She shows uncommon wisdom in her phrasing, having the courage to strengthen a note or two by elongation and by a thoughtful pausing between words in an uncalculated way that renders authenticity without self-conscious striving – simply, she’s a terrific singer who doesn’t hesitate to reveal her emotions and her intelligence.

The opening track “Killer” is a synth-based number with a strong backbeat intended to set the listener off-kilter somewhat; it’s a compelling track yet hardly representative of what’s about to come next: several folk and alt-country tunes that are no less distinctive but with a more traditional sound. “Kathleen” reveals Samantha’s vocals at her best – not afraid to take chances with her considerable range. The standout track on this album, though, is “Big Rock”, a number that with its passionate intensity could easily have emanated from Lucinda Williams a decade or two ago. That said, the composer’s tender and intimate side is displayed beautifully in the confessional coming of age track “Elk city.

This is truly a lovely record: one of the standouts of the year so far. It should advance Samantha Crain’s career to new heights. We’re taken with it around here in the Vivascene offices and we think you will be too, regardless of your musical proclivities. She’s a radiantly talented musician.