Samantha Crain's fourth release is notable for its surefootedness. All of Crain's songs are anchored on strong, straightforward melodies that are buttressed by her delicate lyrics. The album focuses on short stories that make the everyday lives of her characters into sprawling epics. A well-placed word here, an important observation on one of life's small details there, the ultimate effect is that Crain's songs sound like something you've heard somewhere before, but they could only have been written by this unique person with her unique voice.
It may be that Crain is the only one who could have written these songs. The album is intended to be protest music, but instead of writing something more strident, Crain chose instead to call attention to the injustices faced by women, the impoverished, and Native American people (of which Crain is one) by telling their stories instead of holding them aloft as symbols. It takes a skilled songwriter to do that, though, and Crain clearly overcame those challenges. Though not nearly as gutwrenching, I feel Crain could keep pace with fellow Oklahoma songwriter John Moreland. I don't know if Under Branch & Thorn Tree necessarily has the power to change your life like a Moreland album would, but it's a very important album to have in your wheelhouse. If nothing else, it'll give you a new perspective.
Samantha Crain -- Official, Facebook, Purchase from Samantha Crain, Stream on The Guardian