POSTED ON SEPTEMBER 23, 2009:
Long Distances, Long Career
Samantha Crain and the Midnight Shivers return to OK in the midst of touring and growing popularityWeekly Roundup
Warm Welcome. ďIím really excited to be coming back to Oklahoma. We havenít been able to play Oklahoma in what seems like forever, but itís not because we donít want to play (here), itís just that the tour schedule has taken us everywhere else,Ē said Crain.
Samantha Crain has been a busy young lady since she was last featured in an Urban Tulsa Weekly story by Josh Kline in March 2008 (See "In Search of the Sound" online at urbantulsa.com). A then recently signed contract with Ramseur Records not only enabled a wide-scale release for her Confiscation EP and another full length release with her band, The Midnight Shivers, but also provided a platform for the group to do a considerable amount of national touring.
In fact, touring has been the main focus and priority for the band. Since signing with Ramseur, the group has been on the road nearly non-stop with the February release of its latest disc, Songs in the Night. Tours with The Avett Brothers, William Elliot Whitmore and Langhorne Slim, along with making the rounds on the summer festival circuit have all been part of the agenda for Crain and company this year.
Along the way, the group has garnered attention and positive reviews from the likes of Paste and Rolling Stone magazines, further raising the band's profile. Although the press attention is nice, it hasn't really been a primary concern for Crain.
"It's kind of hard for me to know what the impact really is from those kinds of things," she explained. "I feel like we are already doing what we need to do to build our fan base, in that we're hitting each city consistently and playing good venues with other quality bands."
Tulsa, luckily, fits into that description as Samantha Crain and the Midnight Shivers return Saturday night, Sept. 26, for a show at Cain's Ballroom with The Avett Brothers.
But don't think for a second that Crain hasn't thought about some type of publicity helping the longevity of her career.
"I think the most underrated form of publicity is word of mouth, and that's what the whole process is about at Ramseur. The Avett Brothers (who have a new album coming out on Sony Records next week) are where they're at now because people have been talking about them for 10 years. For me, that's got the most lasting impact, and we're trying to build a long career out of this."
Of course, the positive reviews wouldn't be coming in if the group wasn't doing something right and Songs in the Night is definitely worthy of the positive press. Crain's trembling vibrato and songwriting are still front and center, but the latest record has a more light-hearted tone and mannerism than Crain's solo disc, The Confiscation, without losing any of the impact of her picturesque lyrics.
Crain admitted that working with a band did effect how she approached the songwriting. She takes into account the group dynamics, looks for more punchy guitars and focuses on melodies more than she did in the past. In the end, it might have stripped away a little of the darkness of the solo EP, but it also added to the energy and dynamic qualities of the album.
Another factor that played a pivotal part in sonic transition between discs was the recording process.
"The songs on The Confiscation were all single tracks," she said. "They started out with just me and a guitar, then we added extra instruments to get a neat texture.
"With the new record, we set up in a big church that had been turned into a recording studio and we played and recorded live, in a circle, facing each other. We were trying to hone in on the vibe of playing together."
While plans are already in place for the band to record a follow-up at the beginning of next year, Crain is also preparing to return to the studio in December with Joey Lemmon to record another solo disc, which she said will be more layered and textured, differing from her band material. The future also holds in store a spot on the Cayamo Cruise in February 2010, a week-long cruise on which the band shares the bill with artists like Emmylou Harris, Lyle Lovett, John Hiatt, Steve Earle and Buddy Miller, among others.
"I'm really excited to be coming back to Oklahoma. We haven't been able to play Oklahoma in what seems like forever, but it's not because we don't want to play (here), it's just that the tour schedule has taken us everywhere else," said Crain.
Another part of it could be, according to Crain, that she doesn't book the shows anymore as she did in past years. That doesn't mean that she's out of touch or not yearning to connect to her roots.
"I still want people to think of us as a local band and support us that way. When we're out on tour, I always talk about Oklahoma and how much I love being from here. I don't want people to think we've abandoned them, just because we haven't been able to get back sooner."
Crain and the band are booked as the opening act for The Avett Brothers, but there is nearly as much buzz building for her return as there is for the headliner.
"I was so excited when I found out they (The Avett Brothers) had asked us to join them for these shows," Crain said. "I had told them before that I'd love to play Cain's Ballroom because that's where I went to see shows as I was growing up. That's where I saw bands like Bright Eyes and Interpol for the first time."
This weekend, however, Crain won't just be a member of the audience; she'll be playing the main stage. If she and her band keep focused and move in the direction they're headed, this will surely be the first of many visits to the Ballroom. Tickets are still available and can be purchased for $22 at the door.
If you don't get a chance to make this show, or if you're looking for another opportunity to see her in her native environment, she'll also be headlining a club date at the 51st Street Speakeasy in Oklahoma City next Friday, October 2, with Ali Harter and Sherree Chamberlain. Either way, you won't want to miss your chance to catch one of the freshest faces of Oklahoma music before her current tour, again, takes her beyond our state lines.
Although the intermittent rain has cooled the temperatures off a bit, the local club and concert scenes are heating up as we head into early fall. As expected, then, we've got a fistful of cool shows in town this week, so I've put together some of the highlights to help get you headed out the door.
If you're looking to kick off your weekend a little early, you've always got a few things to choose from on Thursday evenings and this week is no exception. September 24 sees a couple of shows going on downtown including Fresh Hot Lint with Travis Kidd and The High Meds at Flytrap Music Hall and GoGo Plumbay and Panda Resistance playing at Soundpony. Of course, if you've missed Dustin and Jesse's Higher Education, class is back in session on Thursday evenings at Eclipse and you'll want to get caught up. It's the same format in a different room with a little cozier vibe.
Friday night, September 25, sees Dustin Pittsley set up shop for an intimate show at Arnie's and The Souvenirs play Soundpony. Meanwhile, Mercury Lounge hosts a double-bill with R.I.P. Tides and The Derailers filling the night. The evening's true highlight, however, will be recent UTW cover band Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey's CD release party for One Day in Brooklyn, with special guest Annie Ellicott. You won't want to miss it. If you missed that cover story, see "The Return of Long-Haired Music" by Erin Fore at urbantulsa.com.
Saturday provides for a full-day of music with a variety of options. The day starts with the "Education Rocks" concert for TCC at Veterans Park from noon to 8pm. It's a free show and features sets by Cody Clinton and the Bishops, Steve Lidell, Sam and the Stylees, Project Huckleberry, The Move, HipHopotamus and Pilgrim.
Later in the evening, DJ Sweet Baby Jaysus spins at Soundpony while Brandon Clark Band plays Mercury Lounge and Philip Zoellner settles in at Arnie's. The two biggest events of the night, however, are the aforementioned Avett Brothers/Samantha Crain show at Cain's Ballroom and a Memorial Benefit for DJ Chron at Flytrap Music Hall with music by Freakjuice, Sam and the Stylees and Recorder, as well as sets with DJ's Moody, Demko, Skeeter and Balance, all to honor the memory of Chron. Cover will be $10 at the door with all proceeds going to Chron's family to assist with his medical and funeral expenses. (See page 39 for UTW's additional DJ Chron memorial coverage.)
If you're in the mood for a short drive, you can also head out to the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino on September 26 to catch a free show with '90s alt-rock darlings Presidents of the United States of America in the Friction nightclub at 11pm.
Sunday, September 27, is another busy evening downtown for touring shows as Taylor Swift stops at the BOK Center, The Brady Theater hosts The Australian Pink Floyd Show and Unknown Hinson plays The Marquee.
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