Show Review: COOP Showcase: Samantha Crain, John Calvin Abney, Kierston White

Show Reviews

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Thursday night saw the COOP Showcase return to the historic Tower Theatre in OKC for its January 2019 presentation. Presented by COOP Aleworks, the Showcase is a monthly presentation of some of Oklahoma’s finest up and coming musicians and artists. COOP and the Tower definitely set the bar high for the remainder of the year by featuring Samantha Crain, John Calvin Abney and Kierston White in this month’s Showcase and I think they would have been hard pressed to have put together a better line-up to commence the year.

The Showcase itself is a very laid back homegrown affair. With little fuss, minimal staff presence and seemingly no pressure, the focus is primarily centered on the music. As it should be. The performers could be found mingling with one another as well as with friends, family and staff prior to showtime. The Oklahoma City songwriting scene, as well as the Tulsa scene, are a close knit group of musicians. This provides for ample collaboration, both in the studio and live, as well as none of the usually common ego. Ultimately, it allows for special nights and performances like this evening.

Taking the stage first we had Kierston White and songs from her debut album “Don’t Write Love Songs,” which was produced by the evening’s headliner Samantha Crain. As if to reinforce the laid back nature of the evening, a friend approached the stage to say hello and bid good wishes for the show. Not missing a beat, White announced, “My old friend just said, “I hope you have a good show.” “Me too.”
“Alcohol” and “Happy Noon Beers” kicked things off, with White performing solo for the first few songs, before inviting John Calvin Abney on stage to lend some support on guitar. White is a pretty fine picker in her own right, but Abney added quite a few tasty licks starting with “Blame Hank Williams,” and a particularly splendid, guitar heavy “Don’t Write Love Songs.” White closed out her wonderful set with a newer song, “Break The Mold” which gives me hope that there may be a new album on the horizon. White’s song’s fall somewhere between folk and country, with a songwriter’s sensibility for quality over trying to succeed in a Nashville based environment. Thank God. This was my second opportunity to catch White, and I’ve really enjoyed both sets. Next, I need to make a point of catching her perform with her group, Tequila Songbirds. I’m ashamed I haven’t already. All things Kierston White can be found by visiting: https://www.kierstonwhite.com/

Next up, John Calvin Abney returned for his own featured set of engaging songs and witty banter. Abney is one of those people that seems comfortable where ever he goes, and it’s something that definitely is reflected in his songwriting. Though he crafts a setlist for each performance, I’ve found he rarely sticks to it completely. Instead, he plays in the moment, relying on the setlist as merely a suggestion rather than the rule. Abney in my humble opinion is one of the finest young songwriters currently plying his craft in the Sooner state. This evening’s menu of songs proved to be a fine example of that praise, with a wealth of songs from his current album “Coyote” on Black Mesa Records. “Get Your House In Order,” “Infinite Nights” and “Broken Bow.” Despite some technical difficulties that resulted in Abney switching guitars mid song, “Cowboys and Canyon Queens,” was it’s usual stunning highlight. Abney is a prolific songwriter. Spending the amount of time on the road with John Moreland as he does, seems to allow for an even more prodigious amount of song crafting. It was quite exciting to have Abney share four of these new creations with us on this night. All four songs were fabulous, with “Kind Days” and “Turn Again” being a pair of the best new songs I’ve heard from any songwriter in a long time. Abney explained he had been listening to the Beach Boys/Brian Wilson quite a bit, and had set out with the intention to write some “happier” songs. Mission accomplished. “Turn Again” in particular, is a song that I can’t get out of my head. Just a great song musically and lyrically even in its stripped down acoustic presentation. I cannot wait to see what gets done with it in the studio, and I’m definitely excited and hopeful with the possibility of a new album in 2019. Information on John Calvin Abney can be found here: http://www.johncalvinabney.com/

Closing out the evening was Samantha Crain. Crain is a Choctaw American and hails from Shawnee, OK, just east of the City. She’s a singer songwriter, musician, poet, artist and producer of the finest ability and highest respect among the Oklahoma songwriting family. Taking the stage, Crain’s presence commands your un-wavered attention, and she quickly rewards you for that responsibility. Vocally, I’m convinced Crain could tackle any number of musical styles. Jazz, theater, indie rock or countless more. But to hear her in a stripped down acoustic manner such as this was purely a joy. Songs “Kathleen” and “Elk City” from her superb and highly recommended release, “Under Branch Thorn Tree,” were mesmerizing. “Elk City” in particular was rendered even more special with the intro. Crain described its debt to Richard Thompson’s classic “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” as well as a woman’s tale in a bar in the namesake town. “I basically jacked the whole song,” Crain joked. Next, Crain also introduced a new song, one that’s name was left blank upon her handwritten setlist. Speculating based on the chorus, I believe this song could be titled “Weight of Heartbreak.” Regardless, it was as beautifully crafted as anything heard this evening, and gives exciting promise to a future release. Over the next few songs, Crain was joined by a pair of young ladies adding stunning harmonies on songs such as “Santa Fe” and “An Echo.” Sadly, I did not catch the ladies’ names, but their contributions most assuredly did not go unnoticed. Winding down the memorable evening, Crain chose her ode to ‘resting bitch face’, “Antiseptic Greeting.” It was truly a special night at the Tower Theatre in Oklahoma City.
You can find more information on Samantha Crain here: https://www.samanthacrain.com

 

 

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