Friday, 22 August 2014

Samantha Crain - Electric Circus, Edinburgh Tuesday 19th August 2014

The Fringe may have been in full swing but the opportunity to take in this Samantha Crain show amongst the comedy, theatre and dance was far too good to miss. The annual trip to the greatest arts festival on earth occasionally throws up the odd show reflecting Americana heritage but, while Samantha’s gig at the Electric Circus was outside the formal promotion of the Fringe, her performance was a worthy addition to the overspill of talent thronging every corner of Edinburgh’s contemporary and historic crevices.

Although on my horizon for a while, the music of Samantha Crain truly entered the domain of this reviewer with a set at this year’s Cambridge Folk Festival and it leapt up several more notches after this extended solo show. The easiest way to describe the music of Samantha is to mix the styles of Mary Gauthier and Lucinda Williams into a melting pot, add the zest of youth and fine tune the product with a dose of prime Oklahoma song writing talent. Quite simply Samantha strains every sinew of soul in the self-penned songs which reflect well her perceptive lyrical output and all projected majestically with cultivated pickin’ skills.

The experience gained from a series of album releases and no doubt countless shows has helped develop the story telling skills of 28 year old Samantha and this evening we were treated to a host of background tales bringing the songs to life. Whether paying tribute to the late Jason Molina with ‘For the Miner’, playfully conspiring a little Taylor Swift irony on ‘Never Going Back’ or playing syllable games with rival cities in titling ‘Devils in Boston’, the majority of tracks forming this hour long set were decorated with enticing insights.

Prior to Samantha taking the spotlight, Edinburgh based acoustic folk roots duo The Jellyman’s Daughter showed that this exciting and enthralling brand of music is in good health north of the border. Emily Kelly (vocals and guitar) and Graham Coe (Cello and vocals) were the individuals on stage but the sound was heavily weighted in gentle unison. Three songs from their opening slot possessed an eyebrow-raising appeal notably the excellent ‘Anna’, a song reflecting their Appalachian influences ‘Carolina’ and a unique bluegrass makeover of The Beatles standard ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’. An upcoming album release from the duo is certainly something to look forward to.

Samantha later humorously commented that ‘she should vet her support artists more thoroughly in future as they were in danger of being too good’. The irony in this statement is that Samantha herself hits the road later in the year as the opening artist for the US shows of Swedish alt-folk trailblazers First Aid Kit. Inevitably she will probably continue to focus on songs from her latest album KID FACE such as numbers featured this evening including ‘Churchill’ and ‘Somewhere All the Time’. However there is surely a place for the standout song from Samantha’s time on stage and the brief outbreak of kindly requested audience participation on ‘Songs in the Night’.

The joy of seeing Samantha Crain live primarily lies in the depth of her warm expressive vocals which act as an evocative median in conveying her thoughts. The guitar gremlins which hindered her Cambridge set did not surface at this evening’s Edinburgh gig, although it was noted at the time in how well she dealt with the amplification issues. This is probably what you would expect from an artist so adept at excelling in the art of song, and performing right in the heart of the final week of the annual Edinburgh Fringe Festival was a fitting platform for someone treading the golden path of Oklahoma song writing. 

www.samanthacrain.com

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