Oklahoma-born singer/songwriter Samantha Crain first caught my ear as a precocious 21-year-old with the release of 2007 debut EP “The Confiscation” and I’ve followed her career closely ever since. Crain takes a step forward with every release — 2009’s “Songs in the Night,” 2010’s “You (Understood)” and 2013’s sublime “Kid Face” — and she continues that trend with fourth full-length “Under Branch & Thorn & Tree.”
“I don’t write protest songs in the traditional sense, but I’m always listening to the voices of people around me,” Crain notes. “These stories are told from the perspective of the underdog, the 99 percent 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.”
There’s a definite somber feel to the 10-track, 38-minute release but Crain never wallows or grows maudlin. Thanks to her arrangements and vocals, the stories she tells on “Under Branch & Thorn & Tree” are always compelling and interesting.
Crain soars highest on keepers “Killer,” “Kathleen,” “Outside the Pale,” “You or the Mystery,” “When You Come Back” and “If I Had a Dollar” — but there are no real missteps to be found anywhere on the album. Do yourself a favor and get to know the music of Samantha Crain. (Jeffrey Sisk)