The multitalented Samantha Crain has just released a haunting new four-song EP called I Guess We Live Here Now. The four tracks are possessed by soothing ghosts that weave in and out of the musical lines to comfort the listener. As a singer, Crain prowls through the notes. There are several times when her voice purrs more than sings, especially when she’s more concerned about expressing emotions rather than telling a story. The songs aren’t connected by topic. This isn’t a concept album. But there is a thematic linkage in the tone of her singing that ties the four tracks together. She presents a warm, sympathetic persona that finds the positive in the lights and shadows we throw at each other in search of love and friendship.
Much of the magic is due to the way Crain phrases her lyrics with odd line breaks that add deeper meanings to what’s expressed as if she were crooning modern poetry rather than singing lyrics. Consider the beginning of the song from which the title of the album comes from: “The auto mechanic / Grease covered Van Gogh / Said the automatic / Transmission was blown / And you laughed as he told you / ‘Man, that’s just our luck / I guess we’ll live here now / Two sitting ducks.”
This is a tale about two people who randomly settle down together in a small town after their car has died. While the album gets its title from the mid-part of the quotation, the song itself gets its name from the last phrase, “Two Sitting Ducks”, and suggests that fate may have other plans for the pair. The reference to Van Gogh, who famously never found love, is telling, as is the rhyme scheme (i.e., “mechanic” / “automatic”) that matches things together that aren’t exactly alike.
Crain writes simple melodies with strong hooks. The acoustic instrumentation complements the human stories. She writes about finding the light inside people (and even includes the gospel tune “This Little Light of Mine” inside her self-penned “Bloomsday”), what still exists when an affair is over, and how it feels to be alone. There are nice ornamental touches, such as the flute solos and congas that decorate “Malachi, Goodbye” and insinuate and end to intimacy and the return of formal feelings. But Crain’s vocals take center stage and are the main attraction on the EP. One notices the instrumentation mostly when Crain is not singing.
Crain has already directed videos for two of the songs (“Bloomsday”, “Malachi, Goodbye”), which feature many images of her hometown of Norman, Oklahoma. She was recently nominated for the Artist of the Year at the 2021 International Folk Music Awards on the strength of her most recent full-length lp, the critically acclaimed A Small Death. She made that album after surviving three auto accidents in three months that initially left her without the use of her hands. Crain’s physical troubles have been well-documented, but her new EP serves as further evidence that she is back and at the top of her game.