“I don’t write protest songs in the traditional sense,” Samantha Crain says, talking about the songs on her new album, Under Branch & Thorn & Tree. “But I’m always listening to the voices of people around me. These stories are told from the perspective of the underdog, the 99% 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.”
Samantha Crain’s songs are full of expansive melodies that veer off in unpredictable directions, with lyrics that explore conflicting emotions with uncommon insight and compassion. She has a jazz singer’s phrasing, often breaking words into rhythmic fragments that land before and after the beat, stretching syllables or adding grace notes to uncover hidden nuances in her lyrics.
“Though many of these songs are racked with sadness, their effect is strangely uplifting. The richness of Crain’s voice and the elegant simplicity of the musical arrangements bring drama to these stories. And the striking imagery of her lyrics finds beauty and pathos in the details of downtrodden lives.” — The Guardian
Will Johnson’s latest solo album, Swan City Vampires, is distinguished by its immediacy and intimacy. Crisp, measured acoustic guitars cushion the Austin-based singer-songwriter’s equally precise, conspiratorial vocals, while keening pedal steel, droning electric guitars, and the occasional askew keyboard add color. The results fall somewhere in the cracks between Neil Young and Crazy Horse noise hurricanes, road-worn folk songs, and low-key alt-country barnstorming.
“Will Johnson is one of my favorite songwriters on Earth, and this album is as literate and addictive as any of his previous work. These songs are honest and specific while remaining open to multiple layers of interpretation. The melodies are beautiful and memorable, and Will’s voice is a complex and delicate instrument. As a long-time fan, it makes me happy to know that Will is still challenging himself to make music that truly can be called art.” – Jason Isbell