On the road with Gothic-folk singer Samantha Crain 

Most folks would say Samantha Crain had made it. The Gothic-folk strummer from tiny Shawnee, Okla., released a pair of brilliant records with her backing group the Midnight Shivers on the hip Ramseur imprint, then set off to tour America in her trusty Land Rover.

But the singer measures success quite differently.

“I’m very adamant about not doing the same thing all the time, about not falling into any norm,” she says. “That’s just how I’ve decided I want to live, so I got hard on myself when I started to feel like I was getting in a rut.”

The statement accounts for “You (Understood),” her bold new post-Shivers solo statement, which she’ll premiere in San Francisco next week. Her spooky traditional sound is still there, in the waltzing “Religious Wind.”

But she also bounds into other disparate styles in the jazzy “Blueprints” and “Toothpicks,” and the Nirvana-jagged “Equinox” and “Two-Sidedness.” It’s a concept record. The 11 tracks were penned about 11 different people.

“Not story songs, exactly,” she says. “But taking a specific instance of me being with that person and zooming in on every detail, down to the sidewalk we were standing on or a bird that was up in the sky.”

The album provided great catharsis, says Crain, 23. “I was really upset about my band breaking up, and I needed to create some sort of therapy for myself.”

But she wasn’t finished. “On tour, I’d traveled the same way for a long time, just staying on the interstate, staying at chain motels and going to chain fast-food places,” she says. “So this time around, I’m only taking two-lane highways, and trying to look up things to do along the way, like hot springs. I don’t want the road to turn into some monotonous thing.” 

There are downsides to being off the GPS path. Crain and her new combo have often been forced to pitch tents in random fields, or sleep by the side of the road.

On the upside, she says, “that’s where you find the true stuff of America, like the good mom-and-pop restaurants or the guy in overalls with his banjo on the front porch of a gas station, who’ll teach you a bluegrass song while you fill your tank.” She’s also gotten obsessed with regional sodas, like Cheerwine and Ale-8-one. 

But after logging more than 110,000 miles, Crain has learned a valuable lesson. “Two-lane highways aren’t chock-full of gas stations like interstates are, so whenever it says ‘Last gas for 100 miles,’ you’ve got to believe it!”


Samantha Crain

Opening for First Aid Kit

Where: Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., San Francisco
When: 9 p.m. Wednesday
Tickets: $15
Contact: (415) 621-4455; www.bottomofthehill.com

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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