Archive for the Samantha Crain Category

Top 20 of 2009: 21-19

Posted in Charlie Robison, Porterdavis, Samantha Crain, Top 20 of 2009 on December 15, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

My decade list has been posted. The Bird List has been compiled. Now it’s time to look back at this year’s new releases and attempt to list my favorite albums of 2009.

It’s important to note that these are my favorite albums and not necessarily a critical review of the best of the year. There’s a lot of stuff out there that I didn’t hear this year, a lot of things I enjoyed but didn’t earn favorite status, and a few critical darlings that just flat didn’t do it for me. This is simply a list of the 20 albums that I enjoyed the most this year and the ones I kept coming back to.

A couple of notes before we get into it…

I’m doing 20 instead of ten this year because that’s the size of the list I came up with for The Bird List (A collective effort by 30 Americana and Roots bloggers to create a master list of the most essential albums of 2009). In fact, this list will have 21 albums because it includes one album that was not on my entry for The Bird List. This album’s inclusion on the list is based on my bending of the definition of “2009” in order to make it fit. I’ll tell you more when we get to that spot.

The write ups for each album will also be a bit shorter than last year. I’ve already written about most of the albums on this list at least once this year. Where I can, I’ll provide links to the original posts as I progress through the list. The mp3 links in the original posts will be inactive, but I will provide active mp3 links for each album in the new posts.

Ok… Let’s get started…

#21. Porterdavis by Porterdavis

I was first introduced to this trio from Austin this summer when they sent me a copy of their self-titled studio debut produced by the wonderful Gurf Morlix. When I noticed they were headed to Knoxville in September to play the Blue Plate Special and a few other shows, I gave the album a few spins and really came to like what I heard.

The band had a unique sound that was built around the vocals and guitars of lead singer Daniel Barrett and filled out nicely by Simon Wallace on harmonica and Mike Meadows on the Black Swan Drum (an instrument of his own invention). Simon’s harmonica heavily ties the band’s sound to the blues while also taking some cues from folk and alternative country. The lead track on the album, “Smack You Back,” showcases all of this while also dropping some lyrical references to classic rock. Here’s the studio version of the track along with another version played live at the WDVX studios when the guys visited with me in September. You can also listen to their entire visit here.

Porterdavis: Smack You Back (Buy Album)
Porterdavis: Smack You Back (Live @ WDVX) (Buy Album)

#20. Beautiful Day by Charlie Robison

My original review of this album was one of the first posts removed by the blog police this summer, but that won’t stop me from including it here as one of my favorites of 2009.

As I said previously, Charlie has always been my favorite of the two Robison brothers. This album goes a long way toward explaining why. Charlie always seemed to have a bit more of an edge than his brother Burce, and that shows through clearly here on songs like “Yellow Blues” and “Nothin’ Better to Do.” Charlie’s music has always seemed a little more carefree and wild than his brother’s.

That’s why it’s so striking that the true successes of this album come when Charlie lets his more vulnerable side shine through. He recorded this album in the aftermath of his divorce from long time wife Emily Erwin of the Dixie Chicks. The heartbreak is palpable in the pleading “Reconsider” and the mournful “Down Again.” But he refuses to give in to the failures of the past, and instead turns his eyes to the future on tracks like “Feeling Good.” Despite the emotional scar at the center of the album, Charlie never seems defeated by the circumstances of his life. He sees the Beautiful Day on the other side of his pain and lets the light shine through.

Charlie Robison: Beautiful Day (Buy Album)

#19. Songs in the Night by Samantha Crain & The Midnight Shivers

Samantha Crain is a young songwriter from Oklahoma who turned a lot of heads this year with her full length debut Songs in the Night. On this release, Samantha displays a mature songwriting style and manages to create her own individual sound while still allowing each song to have a life and feel of its own. She is able to convincingly pull off the subdued “Long Divison” just as easily as the up tempo “Devil’s in Boston.”

Samantha appeared on Tennessee Shines in October and also visited me in the studio before the show. She played a couple of songs for me in the studio and shared a great story about how an email to the Avett Brothers helped to jump start her career. It was great to have such a promising young artist in the studio to share her story and her music. As much as her songs spoke to me on the album, it was amazing to have her share them with me one on one in the WDVX studio. Here voice is truly a unique instrument and one I was glad to have the opportunity to experience up close. You can listen to my entire interview with Samantha Crain here and check out a studio track and a live performance below.

Samantha Crain & The Midnight Shivers: Songs in the Night (Buy Album)
Samantha Crain: Get the Fever Out (Live @ WDVX) (Buy Album)

Samantha Crain in the Studio & a New Song

Posted in Samantha Crain on October 29, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

Last night I had the pleasure of being joined in the studio by Samantha Crain just a few hours before she took the stage for a performance on Tennessee Shines. Samantha has been out on the road for some time now promoting her debut album Songs in the Night. She’ll get to rest a bit now as last night was her final show on her current tour.

If you missed her this time around though, don’t worry. Samantha says she hopes to get back in the studio soon to begin work on a new record for 2010. I’m sure more shows will follow then.
Samantha Crain played a couple of songs for me in the studio last night… including a brand new song called “Blueprints” that does not yet appear on any of her records. You can hear that song around the eleven minute mark in the interview.
Samantha Crain at WDVX (Buy Samantha’s Music)

Tennessee Shines October Edition: Dave Alvin, Sara Watkins, Tyler Ramsey, & Samantha Crain

Posted in Dave Alvin, Samantha Crain, Sara Watkins, Tennessee Shines, Tyler Ramsey on October 27, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

It’s that time once again…

Wednesday night at 7:00 (Eastern), WDVX and wdvx.com will broadcast this month’s edition of Tennessee Shines live from the Bijou Theatre in downtown Knoxville. This month’s lineup is a pretty solid one featuring Americana stalwart Dave Alvin, former Nickel Creek fiddler Sara Watkins, Band of Horses guitarist Tyler Ramsey, and up and coming Oklahoma songwriter Samantha Crain.

Obviously, the biggest name on this month’s bill is Dave Alvin, who will be appearing with a few members of his backing band, The Guilty Women. Dave has been around since the early 1980s when he fronted the pioneering roots-rock outfit The Blasters along with his brother Phil. For the last several years though Dave has become a highly respected solo artist known for his heartfelt songwriting and monstrous talent on the guitar.

I saw Dave play a show at the Mercy Lounge in Nashville a few years ago. Even as I felt my eardrums exploding due to sheer volume, I could not bring myself to step away from the front of the stage during his set. I had to be right up front so I wouldn’t miss a note. His playing is that captivating. Wednesday night, Dave will be playing selections from his latest project Dave Alvin & The Guilty Women.

Dave Alvin & The Guilty Women: Marie Marie (Buy Album)

Next, we move on to former Nickel Creek (it still pains me to write “former” in front of “Nickel Creek”) fiddler Sara Watkins. Sara is best known for her time with Nickel Creek but has also kept busy over the years with several side projects such as The Mutual Admiration Society, The Watkins Family Band, and her newest project The Works Progress Administration (with Sean Watkins, Luke Bulla, Glen Phillips, & others). Earlier this year, Sara Released her first solo project, a self-titled album on Nonesuch Records.

Sara never wrote as many songs as the other members of Nickel Creek (Sean Watkins & Chris Thile), which is probably why it took her this long to release her first solo record. Even though she did pen a few of the songs on this album herself, her strength (not unlike fellow fiddle playing songbird Alison Krauss) has always been finding the right song, and interpreting it to make it her own. A perfect example is her reading of John Hartford’s “Long Hot Summer Days.”

Sara Watkins: Long Hot Summer Days (Buy Album)

That brings us to Tyler Ramsey, a singer/songwriter/guitarist from Asheville, NC. Tyler made a name for himself in the musician laden town of Asheville by crafting his own intricate style of finger picked guitar. He marries his gentle melodies to dreamy vocals and arrangements to stirring effect. When he isn’t touring and recording on his own, Tyler is also a member of indie rock buzz act The Band of Horses. You can witness Tyler’s guitar skills on the title track to his solo album A Long Dream About Swimming Across the Sea.

Tyler Ramsey: A Long Dream (Buy Album)

Finally, we come to the artist I might be the most excited to hear on Wednesday night, Samantha Crain. I first became familiar with Samantha’s music by reading about her in several posts over at Payton’s site, This Mornin’ I Am Born Again. When I saw her debut full-length album Songs in the Night sitting in my program director’s office at WDVX, I immediately grabbed it, gave it a listen, and started playing it on the air.

To me, her music inhabits the same sonic territories as Brandi Carlile and Sarah Borges. She brings folk-flavored rock with a dangerous edge and just enough pop hooks to become ingrained in your brain. Her backing band, The Midnight Shivers, is responsible for helping to shape and hone that edge in her sound. They deserve a mention here even though they won’t be with Samantha on Wednesday night. Even without the band, I’ll be very excited to hear some of these songs stripped bare on their own. Here’s one (with the band) from Songs in the Night.
Samantha Crain & The Midnight Shivers: Devil’s in Boston (Buy Album)
As a special bonus… Samantha Crain will also be dropping by the WDVX studios before the show Wednesday night to chat with me about her album and her sound. Check it out around 5:30 (Eastern). You can listen at wdvx.com… and feel free to leave any questions you may have for Samantha in the comments.
Tennessee Shines will air live on WDVX and wdvx.com Wednesday night at 7:00.