A bold style to foil homogenous folk music
“My eyes well with contemplation of the pleasures I endure.” Samantha Crain is a Choctaw American folk-rock singer, songwriter and musician that has been honored with two NAMMY Awards (Native American Music Award) for the Best Folk Album of the Year and the Best Songwriter of the Year in 2009. In 2019, Crain won the Indigenous Music Award for the Best Rock Album. Her songs have been played in the hit television shows, 90210 and HBO’s Hung, as well as multiple indie films. A Small Death is her eighth studio album, illustrated by an abstract cover of mauve, geometric shapes intertwining. Perhaps, this symbolizes the scars of the many small deaths that cover human hearts over time.
“An Echo” opens with a lullaby guitar strum and distant, vintage voice, filling the spaces with ominous symbol smashing reverberance. Crain uses allusions to Greek mythology in this particular track when she writes about Hera, Zeus’ wife, that cursed Echo for distracting her, while Zeus had affairs with other women. As a punishment, Hera cursed Echo to only be able to speak other’s last words after they have already been said. Samantha Crain poetically sings, that “Hera must’ve cursed me/ I can’t say the things I need to/ I am just an echo.”
In contrast with the deep, melancholy track above that begins the record, “Pastime” is more of an upbeat, breezy pop song that talks about falling in love with someone. Through retro harmonized vocals, Crain describes the feeling of meeting someone and immediately feeling “like [they] were always there” throughout her life.
With soft, gentle guitar picking, A Small Death introduces a song called “Holding to the Edge of Night” that platforms Crain’s most striking vocals. Her voice exudes raspy, eerie and soulful emotions, as she sings through lyrics that express a stream of consciousness. “What’s that silence inside me that expands into the dark?” is a question Crain opens the song with, showcasing her struggle with depression. In the utmost haunting melody with spirited vocals, Crain repeats with crescendo the evocative phrase: “Holding to the edge of the night.”
“Garden Dove” breaks out into a strong acoustic rock ‘n’ roll guitar strum, later followed by low, grungier vocals. Crain sings about working so hard to be with a lover, listing all the things she adores about them, such as “your skin is so delicate and wild” and “it is so good around you.” The crowning of this song are the interludes of saxophone solos and choruses marked by trombones, leaving waves of harsh acoustic strums and swirly jazz notes to mingle in the air.
Bewitching listeners since the 2000s, Samantha Crain shatters expectations with A Small Death, a mid-western rock ‘n’ roll album with a punk style that defies expectations.