A Small Death is an incredibly moving and hopeful album and comes as a very unexpected chapter in the career and life of Samantha Crain. Since making her last album, 2017’s You Had Me At Goodbye, her hands had become paralysed. It seemed that her career was over. Inexplicably she got the use of her hands back and translated a brain full of songs on to guitar. A Small Death is the first release on Real Kind Records - a label set up by Lucy Rose who was inspired and moved by Samantha Crain’s music.
Vinyl LP £18.99 RR214316
LP on Real Kind Records.
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CD £11.49 RLKND1
CD on Real Kind Records.
‘A Small Death’ is quite an unlikely album. For a time Samantha Crain’s music career looked to have ended due to paralysis in her hands. I can only imagine the relief that Crain felt when she was able to use her hands, to play the guitar, to write an album.
It’s hard not to think back to Phoebe Bridgers’ ‘Punisher’ while listening to ‘A Small Death’. The musicians share a voice filled with yearning and hope, and a knock for the funny and inventive. Like Bridgers, Crain strikes a very welcome balance with her instrumentation. Though this is primarily a guitar album, she weaves in all sorts of other instruments to give the album a wonderful rounded feel. ‘Hold to the Edge of Night’ uses gentle and firm synthesised bass to escalate itself, an accordion runs through the heart of ‘Joey’ and ‘Constructive Eviction’ concludes with some delightful rollicking drums and trumpet. None of that is to demean the guitar playing, which is wonderful throughout.
The aforementioned ‘Joey’ is a particular delight, bringing to mind those songs by Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waits which are addressed to one person and one person only. Crain sings “Joey I’m working in a shop down on mainstreet, it pays the bills and keeps my head screwed on tight”, she’s able to find the general in the specific as easily as Springsteen and Waits. I don’t know Joey, like I don’t know Candy or Charley or any of these other American characters. But I think I know how they feel.
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