Saturday, July 11, 2009

While I Was Away: Samantha Crain and the Midnight Shivers

Here is another artist/band that got some heavy listening to (thanks to Payton) while I was temporarily off-line. Samantha Crain and her band, the Midnight Shivers, have put together a very solid first album, Songs in the Night, released earlier this year.

The first thing to comment on is Crain's voice which is as unique as any out there these days. It is also hard to describe. Yes, she is from Oklahoma so it has a certain drawl to it, but it is more than that. Most of the songs have her in a full, alto mode, but she also clearly has range and control allowing her to sing beautifully in higher ranges and on softer pieces with more delicate vocals. I think Rolling Stone's description is as good as any I have read.
Her voice is gorgeously odd — all fulsome, shape-shifting vowels that do indeed billow like fog.
And that voice is at its best when it is fully integrated into the rest of the band--which it is on most songs.
The tunes range from country to mid-temp rock to haunting dirges that make you feel like you now understand where the band thought up its name. They all have a bit of a dark sound given both Crain's voice and the fact that most of the songs seem to be set in keys (minor, I assume) that have that darker, blues feel. A few tunes don't seem as well constructed as others musically, but that is typically temporary and followed with an even nicer musical move to erase any criticism. For instance, the third track "Long Division" has a guitar line that seems a bit simplistic and separate from the tune (to me), but then the song recovers with some nice horns that really fill out the tune--and then the next tune, "Get the Fever Out" hits it just great right from the opening.
In the end, I have to say that I am a bit curious as to why this album has not gained more attention, although they did get some nice attention from the Times--in that Times kind of way.
As I have listened to them, I keep thinking, this is what would happen if The Pretenders came out of Oklahoma with an alt-country feel. No they don't sound like the P's, but they have the same make-up--strong and unique female vocalist out front with a guitar, with three strong guy musicians behind. A certain moodiness to songs, but with a swagger that makes them rock through the darkness. And the unique sound of Crain's voice.
You can be the judge--here are three. First up is "You Never Know" which is the second to last song and shows off their solid rock chops and song structure--nothing overly adventuresome, just a really good straight-forward tune. Next up is the last song on the album which might be my favorite. "The Dam Song" shows off some of Crain's best singing and is a wonderful end to the album. Lastly, I give you the first tune on the album, which is a fine opening, but is all the better on the all-important disc-replay rollover. Hope you enjoy.

Songs in the Night (buy album)

You Never Know
The Dam Song
Rising Sun

1 comment:

Lisa B. said...

>> all-important disc-replay rollover

See? This is why your blog is so valuable. You have a term for a phenomenon that heretofore I would not have noticed. Thank you very much.