Samantha Crain – “Outside The Pale” (Stereogum Premiere)

It’s a crime that Oklahoma earthen-folky Samantha Crain remains on indie and underground labels even after she released the fiery, whip-smart Kid Face in 2013. Crain worked with John Vanderslice as a producer on Kid Faceone of my own favorite albums that year — and lucky for us they’ve teamed again for her latest effort, Under Branch & Thorn & Tree that will be out this July. Today we’re premiering “Outside The Pale,” a song that’s at once immense and delicate, coasting along on a graceful framework of strings. But Crain is never one to let a song merely be beautiful, and she peppers the track with phrases that sting a little and turn singular details into communal ones: “Running like a yawn/ From one mouth to another.”

Technically, this is Crain’s fourth release, since she’s been writing and singing with impossible momentum since her early teens. She characterizes the album as an ode to the underdog, the working class:

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.

A descendant of Choctaw heritage, the track’s title — “Outside The Pale” — assumes more meaning the closer you listen: “You and I tell the stories the TV won’t release/ They keep us in the wild/ Under branch and thorn and tree.” What a devastating, decimating indictment of the way American pop culture turns a blind, bland eye to the unruly stories of its native and maligned cultures! This is protest music without a formula; rebellion that won’t be nipped in the bud. Listen below.

Here’s the album artwork and full tracklist:

01 “Killer”
02 “Kathleen”
03 “Elk City”
04 “Outside The Pale”
05 “You Or Mystery”
06 “When You Come Back”
07 “Big Rock”
08 “All In”
09 “If I Had A Dollar”
10 “Moving Day”

Under Branch & Thorn & Tree is out 7/17 via Full Time Hobby. North American pre-order here and world-wide here.