Music City Roots hosted by Peter Cooper feat. Samantha Crain, Henry Wagons, Shawn Byrne, Ed Snodderly & BanditosPop/Rock
Oklahoma singer-songwriter Samantha Crain has gone from releasing DIY EPs filled with knotty narratives set to train beats to plugging in on her previous Ramseur Records album — and toured with big-hearted folk-rocking past and present labelmates the Avetts and Langhorne Slim along the way — but she has yet to get swept up by the anthem-writing impulse. Her latest, the John Vanderslice-produced Kid Face, has its hooky, extroverted moments — “Never Going Back” and “Somewhere All the Time,” to name two — but mostly she employs her sharply imaginative grasp of imagery to draw the listener into catacombs of introspection. Funny thing is, Australian Henry Wagons comes on a lot stronger than Crain musically, but he’s not at all into self-revelation. Like Nick Cave before him, Wagons provokes and entertains with a sense of country-gothic drama. It was a downright inspired idea to pair the exaggerated masculinity of his baritone with female duet partners like Alison Mosshart on his new EP, Expecting Company.
Kid Face, the third full-length album from Samantha Crain (Ramseur Records, February 13, 2013), is a revelatory song cycle as expansive as the wide-open spaces of the 26-year-old artist’s native Oklahoma, and as intimate as a conspiratorial whisper. Recorded and mixed in just nine days in the San Francisco studio of producer John Vanderslice (the Mountain Goats, Spoon), this wildly original album stands as the definitive statement thus far from an uncommonly insightful, fearlessly honest young singer/songwriter.
The most apparent thematic thread running through the album is restlessness. The first-person narrators of these 11 songs are in constant motion, as they feel the tug of the far horizon or the need to escape from their present circumstances, ruminating about what may lie ahead and what they’re leaving behind—roots, family, a lover.
Crain introduces the notion of covering ground in the opening song, the propulsive, fiddle-accented “Never Going Back,” and continues it on the following “Taught to Lie,” a minor-key confessional whose nomadic protagonist has “tried to move around, spent a while in Oregon/Then back to Oklahoma, ran around and had some fun.” Subsequently, this compulsive urge to keep moving pulses through the gossamer traditional folk of “Paint” (“I’m trying not to disappear/Into the shadows…”), the hushed piano ballad “The Pattern Has Changed” (“Changing my clothes though they’re the only thing I own now/Coming off the road though it’s the only way I know how…”), the incandescent title song (“Wrong light, driving on a low hung night/The border is just in sight, I can hear it hum…”) and the dark, smoldering “Sand Paintings,” which bears more than a trace of Crain’s “most constant” inspiration, Neil Young (“It’s the lightning hit the tower, all my westward driving hours/Please know my name…”). In the closing “We’ve Been Found,” which turns on the preternatural purity of Crain’s voice, a prodigal daughter makes her return. “I flew home before Christmas,” she sings. “She was gone, I know she misses/All of us, what if I had stayed?”
When asked about the impulse behind this prevailing theme, Crain explains, “The common element of these songs is me; I’m the narrator of all of them. This is the first record of mine that’s completely autobiographical. It’s the most personal record I’ve written, a musical journal of my experiences—things that have happened to me as I traveled and my thoughts about specific situations. In the past, I resisted writing about myself because I was ashamed of how normal I was.” She punctuates this admission with a quick laugh. “So I wrote about the people I met in my travels. But having done this for a few years, I’ve gained confidence, and this time I wanted to tap into the feeling of getting older and knowing more about myself. I think that makes the new record more relatable, more blue-collar.”
Instantly accessible by way of the ecstatic melodic lifts embedded in each song, which enable Crain to explore the full range of her powerful but achingly vulnerable voice, Kid Face gradually reveals its depth and nuance over repeated listenings. Crisp, vivid images and liquid internal rhymes betray Crain’s painterly attention to texture and the minutest detail. No song overstays its welcome, as she exhibits a rarefied economy of expression, an open-ended willingness to leave certain things unsaid, to resist the urge to dissect the mysteries of life.
As it turns out, Crain came to her gift obliquely. “It may seem odd, but wanting to travel preceded my wanting to get good at songwriting and performing,” she confesses. “In fact, I started playing music in order to travel. Living in a small town in Oklahoma, there wasn’t much going on, and I got itchy, so I started going out on the road and playing everywhere that would have me. At that time, a few years ago, the coffeehouse circuit was more welcoming than it is now; usually, all I had to do to get a show was to send a demo to the booker.” Initially hitting the road as a duo with her roommate at the time, Crain began to satisfy her desperate need for raw material, and her experiences “traveling and meeting people and getting to see different places” began to feed and animate her songwriting, about which she was becoming increasingly passionate. In a sense, then, Crain was following in the footsteps of an earlier Oklahoma-born troubadour, Woody Guthrie.
A Choctaw Indian, Crain grew up in the small town of Shawnee listening to her father’s Dylan and Grateful Dead records, dabbling in painting (a pursuit she took seriously enough to later land a gallery exhibition in Oklahoma City) and trying her hand at writing short stories. When she became intrigued by the notion of writing songs, Crain reworked a series of stories she’d written while taking creative writing classes at Oklahoma Baptist University into the songs she then recorded for her self-released EP, The Confiscation: A Musical Novella. The quality of the material and the bold way in which she delivered it inspired North Carolina-based Ramseur to sign the fledgling artist to a deal; the indie label gave the EP a proper release in 2007. The Confiscation revealed the then-21-year-old newcomer “as a promising young storyteller with fealty to ragged, country-driven indie-pop and an alluring dark streak,” wrote The New York Times’ Jon Caramanica.
Crain made Songs in the Night (2009), her debut album—and her first proper recording—with the Midnight Shivers, a band she’d formed not long beforehand. It got the attention of Rolling Stone reviewer Will Hermes, who wrote, “Her voice is gorgeously odd—all fulsome, shape-shifting vowels that do indeed billow like fog.” She followed it a year later with the stripped-down You (Understood) (2010), recorded in a converted barn in Wichita, exposing the primal extreme of her sensibility. “Like a prairie-bred, meat-and-potatoes Joanna Newsom, Crain’s vocals are quivering, emotive and visceral,” noted Liz Stinson in Paste.
If these albums demonstrate Crain’s skills as an observer of the nuances of character and human interaction, this new work shows she possesses the bravery to probe her own psyche as her journey turns inward.
Counterbalancing Crain’s wanderlust is a rootedness that exerts just as strong a pull. “I’ve lived in other places these last few years, but never for long,” she says. “Coming back home brings me perspective and focus.” These leavening aspects are as integral to the impact of her songs as the experiences that inspired her to write them.
Ultimately, the movement in the songs of Kid Face is purposeful, as Crain searches for herself and her place in the universe. Think of Kid Face as a key early chapter in what promises to be an extended, enthralling personal saga. Woody would have been proud.
Showman extraordinaire and outlaw troubadour Henry Wagons is building a worldwide reputation with his twisted take on the classics of Americana country. Like a mischievous child of Cash, Orbison and Presley, with his distinctive baritone Henry Wagons defies expectations of a man and his guitar on stage.
Named one of Melbourne’s Top 100 Most Influential People in 2009, Henry made his North American debut with the 2011 release of Rumble, Shake and Tumble on Thirty Tigers. NPR got on board and “I Blew It” was featured as a Track of the Day.
Henry Wagons - Lead Vocals, Guitar
Mark 'Tuckerbag' Dawson - Drums, Percussion, Vocals
Si the Philanthropist - Washboard, Drums, Vocals
Chad 'Iron' Mason - Electric Guitar, Percussion, Vocals
Matty 'Soft Moods' Hassett - Keyboards, Vocals
Richard Blaze - Lead Guitar
Shawn Byrne. Born in 1973. Middletown, Ct. Middlesex Hospital. The umbilical cord was cut and a new one was soon attached. This new cord plugged straight into a wooden Zenith record player where the future musician was nourished via headphones with the music from his fathers eclectic record collection. Cash, Willie, Waylon played nicely alongside The Stones The Beatles and The Who.
Shawn's father, a full time lineman and part time musician kept his coveted Gibson Les Paul Goldtop under his bed. Not a very good hiding spot. The classic guitar found it's way onto a school bus and to the stage of a 3rd grade talent contest where the young Shawn horrified his music teacher as he wrestled the weighty guitar while rocking out to Mellencamp's "Jack and Diane".
Dad never knew of his son's secret liaisons with the guitar until at a gig he found that all the picks were missing from the case and had to use a bread bag clip to get through the night. It wasn't long until Shawn had his very own $150 Fender Squire Strat and the Les Paul stayed under the bed... but only for a time.
The journey that brought Shawn from Connecticut to Nashville led him through Boston's prestigious Berklee College of Music where The self taught musician learned that formal instruction wasn't in the cards. Several garage bands, a near death experience and a stretch living and working with special needs kids at the Perkins School for the Blind brought Shawn to the conclusion that if he was to make music his life then he would need to take the plunge and go where music and creativity can permeate an aspiring artists life. A place where living masters of their trade share songs and licks in famed clubs such as the Douglas Corner and the Bluebird Cafe. In fact it was 2003 that the Bluebird Cafe found their new dishwasher. Shawn scrubbed lightly as to not drown out the songs being shared just beyond the kitchen wall by some of Nashville's most successful songwriters. During this time Shawn honed his writing and playing skills and not only became one the town's most sought out guitar slingers (touring with Rodney Atkins, Mark Collie, Ashton Shepherd and Kelleigh Bannen to name just a few) but also became an in demand demo singer working on sessions for Mark Knopfler, Mary Gauthier, Gary Louris and Kristen Hall under the guidance of Grammy winning producer Nathan Chapman. In time it was Shawn's talents as a writer that got the attention from publishers and major artists alike garnering Shawn a SESAC writers award and around 20 cuts to his name.
Shawn's second self produced record "Pine Trees, Cheap Wine and the Moon" released this Sept, 2012 contains 15 masterfully crafted songs that showcases Shawn's talents not only as a singer/songwriter but also as a guitarist, producer and mixing engineer. An eclectic mix of country infused styles like rockers "The Hardest Fall" and "Boots" to the bluegrass romp "the High Notes" recorded with Grammy nominated and multi IBMA award winners The Grascals. Then there's the yearning "A Woman Will" and the heartbreaking "Simply Slip Away". Take a listen a learn why the Nashville Scene calls Shawn Byrne "Nashville's Best Kept Secret"
Now the year is 2012. Nashville, TN. Shawn straps on his Dad's old and now road-worn Goldtop Les Paul and takes the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. The journey continues..
Ed SnodderlyFolk, Singer-Songwriter
Ed Snodderly has dedicated his life to the arts and is a well-respected musician, writer, actor and owner of one of the country’s longest running music venues. Ed’s low-key personal demeanor belies a wealth of accomplishment and talent that distinguishes Ed in the world of Southern-roots based music.
When Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum unveiled it’s new building in 2001, Ed was permanently honored when his song lyrics were literally inscribed into the wall. It is quite an honor to be recognized by an institution that could have picked any one of hundreds of legendary and renowned songwriters to distill the essence of what the Museum embodies. But it was the simple eloquence of Snodderly’s pen that gave his artistry an immortality.
And Ed comes by that honestly. Born in East Tennessee, Ed’s love of music and his ability to inspire others began with his own grandfather who was an old-time fiddler. Together with Ed’s father on guitar and his uncles playing fiddle, piano and banjo, his family’s band played for the same square dances back in the 1930’s that the then young Roy Acuff played on the alternate weekends. And the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Ed’s family were tobacco and cattle farmers, with music an inherent part of family life. Ed’s own down to earth outlook and artistry draws from his background where his rich musical heritage nurtured the artist within.
In the 70’s, Ed spread his wings to take advantage of a record deal with Philo Records and then moved to Boston, later migrating briefly to the West Coast to record another album. But it was Ed’s native Tennessee roots that called him home when in 1976 Ed and a friend decided that East Tennessee needed a quality listening venue, and The Down Home Pickin’ Parlor was born. Surviving through numerous ups and downs of the music business, The Down Home continues to present the finest in Southern and national artists over these three decades.
As Ed continued his various musical projects, it was in the 90’s that his musical brilliance was to be feted in a duo with Eugene Wolf known as “The Brother Boys.” Almost as a testimony to that all Ed absorbed in his early musical years, Ed & Eugene were acknowledged critically for a decade with their now three classic recordings on Sugar Hill. Continuing to perform in a variety of situations, Ed recently formed a “writers in the round” group that he tours with featuring some of the best artists the south has to offer – Tony Arata (noted for writing Garth Brook’s The Dance), Malcomb Holcomb and Jelly Roll Johnson. Additionally Ed’s own songs have also been recorded by artists such as Missy Raines, former New Grass Revival’s John Cowan and Sam Bush as well as Jerry Douglas.
However, alongside his musical endeavors, Ed has also been an actor for most of his life. His most famous role occurred in the movie phenomenon “Oh Brother Where Art Thou” where Ed’s fiddling took center stage in the character of the “Village Idiot.” Ed has also worked as an actor in Theater companies such as The Denver Center Theatre, State Theatre of Virginia and The Barter Theatre. For the past four or five years, Ed has been a contributing actor and musician, playing guitar, mandolin, dobro and fiddle in Fire on the Mountain, set in an Appalachian coal mining town.
The name Ed Snodderly is just about synonymous with Southern music and culture, By just doing what comes naturally, Ed has unofficially established himself as one of the South’s most valued treasures.
Banditos are famously eclectic, paying tribute to a little Aretha here, a little CCR there, with a tidbit of Squirrel Nut Zippers packed around the edges. While such a myriad of influences would bury a lesser band in tuneless muck, Banditos use their disparate influences to forge a more assured identity. Though they recall a dozen bands, they sound like none so much as themselves. The instrumentation is as ambitious as it is deftly executed, mingling upright bass with kazoo and banjo while the soul-spangled howl of frontwoman Mary plays counterpoint to a deceivingly sparse guitar, drenched in a quantity of reverb and delay not often associated with “danceable.” All this would mean crap if Banditos couldn’t play, but these mothers can choogle. It’s always the mark of a good band to be able to play the hell out of three chords and a breakdown, and Banditos shake it down like John Fogerty. Honestly, their shows are such burndowns of shimmying shins and stomping heels they should carry warnings for bone spurs.
Timothy Steven Corey Parsons - Vocals, Guitar
Stephen Alan Pierce II - Vocals, Banjo
Mary Beth Richardson - Vocals, Tambourine
Randy Taylor Wade - Percussion
Jeffery Daniel Vines - Upright Bass
Jeffery David Salter - Electric Guitar, Lap Steel
Has worked in the studio as a performer, producer or session musician with Tom T. Hall, Todd Snider, Emmylou Harris, Nanci Griffith, Bobby Bare, Duane Eddy, Buddy Miller, Patty Griffin, Kim Carnes, Rodney Crowell, Ricky Skaggs, Kenny Chesney, Jim Lauderdale and many more.