In this weird period of time where a pandemic still looms in the background, but some states have moved to bars being open, it seems that live music is slowly becoming a thing once again. To be honest, it still doesn’t feel normal, or like the “old days” quite yet. However, with baby steps and caution, it seems to be headed in that direction, slowly, but surely. As of right now, Mercury Lounge is livestreaming to various social media platforms during their live shows. It gives those that prefer to remain at home for the time being, a way to experience the shows, without exposing them to the outside world.
Carter Sampson, the undisputed “Queen of Oklahoma,” returned to the stage last Friday night at the Mercury Lounge Tulsa. Although Carter has been doing her daily live stream (Happy Hour with Carter & Bubba) for the past couple of months during the pandemic, it was obvious with the smile that lit up her face how she felt to actually be on stage and in front of people again. Carter took the stage with Kyle Reid and Jason Scott, both of whom she regularly collaborates, as well as tours with, including an epic, European tour last year. If you’re somehow not familiar with Carter, that needs to be changed. She’s a favorite in the regional music scene, appearing on many a venue stage and also playing festivals. As if being a full-time touring musician isn’t enough to keep you busy, she’s also the founder and director of the Rock N Roll Camp for Girls, which is based in OKC.
Friday night’s set was a mix of old and new, standard Carter Sampson favorites and some songs that she wrote while in quarantine. Not surprisingly, not even a pandemic can keep her from being productive, as Carter recorded five new songs in a makeshift studio that Kyle Reid set up for her. Word on the street is that those five songs will be released as an EP sometime in the future. The set began with “Medicine River” and” Run Away” off of the album Wilder Side and was followed by “Tulsa” a cover of fellow Okie singer-songwriter Kalyn Fay. A few new songs, “Mama Don’t Worry” and “Sent You a Drunk Text” were added to the mix and of course, no set would be complete with out “Queen of Oklahoma”. Some of the best parts of a Carter Sampson set are the stories, whether that’s a story about touring, Rattlesnake Kate (who inspired one of her songs) or what it’s like singing one of Wanda Jackson’s own songs right in front of her. Apart from the stories, another special part of this evening, for those in attendance was the chance to experience, not one, but three talented artists. Not one to be satisfied with being the sole artist in the spotlight, at times during the set, Carter would pause and encourage Kyle and Jason to each sing a song. At one point, Kyle began singing the song “Dancing Alone” while a lone woman swayed back and forth towards the front of the stage.
Although I’ve been able to photograph a few shows since bars have opened back up, this one felt the most like old times. Maybe it was seeing Carter Sampson on stage, in her shiny silver boots, signature glasses and always colorful ensembles. Maybe it was the actual crowd gathered out on the patio, or maybe I can attribute this all to the frozen Vegas bomb I had, at any rate. It’s good to be back out listening to live music.