Kid Face, Old Soul
Crain burst out of the expansive plains of Oklahoma in 2009. That year, she debuted with Songs in the Night under the moniker Samantha Crain and the Midnight Shivers. A year later, she followed it up with the stripped-down You (Understood). Kid Face is her third full-length LP, and certainly her most complex. Of Choctaw Indian heritage, her natural folk inclinations characterize her lovely, honest lyrics and pleasing melodies. But this album is by no means simple. Highly personal, varied and intriguing, the record showcases not only her abilities as a vocalist, but especially as a lyricist.
“Looking for standards / in a country with cancers / Oh, the land of my fathers / Where everything dies,” she writes in the title track; not uplifting, perhaps, but wise. The rhythm operates simply. Crain usually writes her rhymes neat so that they resonate—and when they don’t, we take notice. Her songs conjure images, usually of quintessential American scenes, through her words, but her airy voice adds depth like a clear, blue Southwestern sky. A mix of Feist and Ingrid Michaelson, she allows her vocals to float through acoustic guitars (“For The Miner,”) echo a fiddle’s melody (“Never Going Back,”) and drip heartbreak over a piano’s minor chords (“The Pattern Has Changed.”) Moreover, at forty minutes long, the LP demonstrates brilliant mixing, as every song contrasts the ones on either side of it. She shows vulnerability, humor and spirit in a perfect eleven tracks. Her versatility is notable and appreciated, especially when every other day marks the release of yet another folksy alt-country songbird. Crain is as real as it gets.
The closing “We’ve Been Found” is a guts-on-the-floor portrait of love and loss. Crain croons, “Been her friend, her daughter, and her maid / Oh, we’ve been found / I’m not mad, I’m conflicted / You’re not bad, you were lifted / From your cell / With your landlike heart / And I’m your clone, that’s what makes it hard.” At once self-aware, honest and forgiving, Crain’s soothing tones place her in the position of comforting caregiver as she lets go of her mother. Instead of hiding behind metaphors or spilling the rhetorical beans, Crain lets her listeners piece together a tale, welcoming us to her breezy, rich and wide open world.