Following 2014’s critically-acclaimed album Kid Face, singer-songwriter Samantha Crain will see her fourth album, Under Branch & Thorn & Tree, released on July 17, via Full Time Hobby.

The new album was recorded and mixed at Tiny Telephone Studios in San Francisco, and produced by John Vanderslice, (The Mountain Goats, Spoon) who also helmed Kid Face. The album’s intimate vignettes are marked by Crain’s smoldering vocals and lyrics that call attention to the details of everyday life that often escape us, supported by the subtle musical settings she crafted with Vanderslice and the backing musicians.

About the new songs Crain said, “I don’t write protest songs in the traditional sense, 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.”
Crain and Vanderslice recorded and mixed the album in 10 days. “I like to work that quickly,” Crain said of the process, “and John’s good with spontaneous creation. We recorded straight to two-inch tape on a Studer 24-track machine and mixed down to 1/2-inch tape on an Ampex machine. The pre-amps were tube and we never used a computer. Our effects were done manually through tape looping and manipulation. Most of the arrangements happened in the moment, as we recorded. My guitar and vocals are all first or second takes.”

The album’s overall tone may be somber, but Crain’s vocals and the sensitive, striking arrangements bring unexpected flashes of light to even the darkest scenarios. The new songs are marked by 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.

“Big Rock,” the album’s most exuberant track. Anne Lillis adds rhythmic tension with her stop and start fills on the chorus. Bright, chiming keyboards from John Calvin Abney sprinkle “Kathleen” with stardust, as Crain’s heartfelt vocals drift through an expansive soundscape that suggests the comforting warmth of a long summer night.

The plush strings and Crain’s bluesy acoustic strumming fill “When You Come Back” with an aching melancholy, as Crain describes the pain of seeing an old flame with his new spark. “Buried heartbreak can become very public in a small town,”