Tue. Dec 6th, 2022

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Album Review: Samantha Crain – Under Branch & Thorn & Tree

2 min read

Though the twin touchstones of folk and Americana guide Samantha Crain’s album Under Branch & Thorn & Tree, the most interesting elements of her sound are those that transcend genre, time and place entirely. Her voice and her words have a transformative power, and over the course of the album’s thirty eight odd minutes one finds themselves repeatedly floored by turns of phrase and the emotional registers Crain climbs. To call the album impressive would be to massively understate its power. Indeed, Under Branch & Thorn & Tree feels like a record delivered by a musician who has been playing this game for decades.

Samantha Crain - Under Branch And Thorn And TreeThe album is divided roughly in two. On the one hand, you have the songs that could be more easily pigeonholed as ‘typical’ Americana fare; tracks like the rollicking Big Rock or Killer, the tune that sets off the proceedings. Then, on the other, you have the sprawling string-led epics; songs that twist and turn endlessly. It is a testament to Crain’s ability as a songwriter that neither style feels necessarily superior to the other. Indeed, the way the tone shifts from the stripped back, acoustic noodlings of the powerful Elk City to the complex, twisting strains of Outside The Pale feels like a total natural progression. The two songs are flipsides of the same coin, and are unified by the harsh, natural beauty of Crain’s voice and the force of the words she sings.

Indeed, Crain proves herself to be a woman with a lot on her mind. Even the songs that fall tentatively into the romantic ballad category kick with a refusal to be submit.  “When you come back, could you bring my heart? Crain wonders aloud on When You Come Back, a song on which the twenty eight year old claims to be tired with a voice so world weathered that it stings.

By the time Crain has finished packing her boxes on album closer Moving Out one is filled with the overwhelming desire to never let her go. Indeed, as soon as Under Branch & Thorn & Tree is done, the best thing to do is pull the needle back to the beginning and start the whole beautiful thing over again.