On July 17, Oklahoma singer-songwriter Samantha Crain will release her fourth album, "Under Branch & Thorn & Tree." But first, she'll perform in Anchorage on Saturday, courtesy of KNBA-FM.
"Under Branch & Thorn & Tree" will be nothing new for Crain fans. The album is affecting at least and silently devastating at most. Again, nothing new.
The 28-year-old's subtle style and taciturn songwriting often cuts an unnoticed mark into the ears of the sensitive and the willing. The Choctaw singer focuses heavily on the everyday for inspiration.
"I don't find the creative process difficult," Crain said. "It's usually just life around it that makes it easier or harder. Making an album isn't some giant mountain to conquer, it's more like a drive across the country, where sometimes you get tired, sometimes you're full of energy, sometimes you have to stop and fill up with gas. Some days the weather is amazing, sometimes it's torrential.
"But really, even if you don't make it all the way across, you've still made progress, and it can still be complete, albeit changed."
According to Crain's press team, the album's single, "Outside the Pale," highlights "Crain's disdain for the small minority of elite people who are still capable of controlling the definitions of morality in our society," and the record, taken as a whole, "explores the everyday concerns of the working class and gender equality."
Crain, however, doesn't consider herself a "protest singer."
"I don't write literal protest songs," Crain said. "I take note of life around me and write about it. In some cases, injustices are brought to light because I've observed them and put them into the song."
Her confrontation of injustice has made music news in the past. In 2014 Crain and fellow organizers silently protested the Oklahoma band Pink Pony. The pop-electronic trio's lead singer, Christina Fallin, had posted a photo of herself wearing a Plains headdress to social media sites as a publicity stunt. Fallin -- a former Oklahoma City lobbyist and the daughter of Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin -- faced nationwide opposition for the stunt and when pressed publicly apologized via press release. Yet the singer's lack of sensitivity toward an obvious act of cultural appropriation alarmed many.
When a rumor began circulating that she would perform in full regalia, Crain and a few others came together to call her out in what ended up being a rather small, but impactful, demonstration.
"We only had about eight people holding signs, but many stood in solidarity. We remained respectful of those that wanted to be there for the show by standing to the side of the stage and not making any audible disruptions," Crain told Buzzfeed in a 2014 interview. Photos of the protest circulated on social media, and a larger conversation about cultural appropriation -- what it means and whom it affects and offends -- was sparked online.
Crain's activism, however minor, helped boost a very important conversation about non-Natives' relationship with Native culture in America. It's not a new conversation. Bloggers and journalists have been writing openly about it for some time. Yet instances like Fallin's stunt continue ad infinitum.
For Crain -- who ended up saying on Twitter that she'd lost "fans" over her decision to stand up to Fallin's actions -- when it comes to activism, she "doesn't try and win arguments with her songs," she said.
"I simply want more people to be drawn to the conversation. I assume I've lost fans with some of the stances I've taken on things, but that's not really worrisome to me. If you have an opinion on anything, there will always be a dissent."
Katie Medred is a freelance music writer living and working in Anchorage. Visit her blog, Beat & Pulse, Alaska, at beatandpulsealaska.tumblr.com for more.
When: 7 p.m. Saturday, June 13
Where: Tap Root Public House
Tickets: General admission is $15 at the door, $10 in advance. Advance tickets at taprootalaska.com/samantha-crain. 21 and over only.