Samantha Crain, Kid Face

Annie Zaleski

By Annie Zaleski

on 02.19.13 in Reviews

Singer-songwriter Samantha Crain has always sounded like an old soul, her dusty alto worn down by restless thoughts and free-floating anxiety. On the autobiographical Kid Face, the Oklahoma native sounds even more wizened as she explores loneliness, wanderlust and emotional disruption. Produced by John Vanderslice, Kid Face is a sparse record, laced with stark folk and Americana signifiers: acoustic guitar, wobbly piano, curled pedal steel and keening violin. Shambling banjo, stabs of synthesizer or electric guitar add occasional jolts of urgency to the mix.

A sparse folk record with thorough, unflinching self-analysis

But significantly, Crain comes into her own as a lyricist on Kid Face. Besides being a meticulous wordsmith (“I’m going to shows, counting my toes and crying over you” is how she describes one particularly trying breakup), she offers thorough, unflinching self-analysis. Crain uses Kid Face‘s songs to examine her place in the world — and figure out how her actions affect others, for better and for worse. “Churchill” addresses the realization that “my whole life I thought I was an opportunist/ But I’m not”; “Sand Paintings” struggles with overcoming self-sabotaging tendencies; and “Ax” is a call to be kind in the face of negativity. Perhaps most impressive is “Never Going Back,” which describes (hopefully) breaking free from a disastrous affair: “The ending of 10,000 dreams/ My soul has finally been set free from his cool eyes.” The song is devastatingly effective because of its economy, the same trait that also makes Kid Face a wonderful record.