Carter Sampson returns with her newest offering, Gold on Friday April 7th via Tulsa’s Horton Records.
When I first moved to Oklahoma back in 2005, I left a bustling Texas, (Houston and Austin, in particular) music scene that I felt I had a lot of investment in. I’d been running CD stores and had worked with a whole bunch of local musicians during that time. Even after leaving music retail, I remained involved, doing a little of this, or a little of that; whatever I could trying to help those artists I really connected with. Once I relocated here, I really struggled to find that connection to the local music scene again. Then, one night several years later, I heard Carter’s “Queen of Oklahoma” playing on the house music before a John Moreland performance. I happened to be talking with John Calvin Abney at the time, and asked him if he knew who it was. Just like that, between Moreland, John Calvin and Carter, I’d found my Oklahoma tribe. I’ve added a few more favorites over the years, but those three are the foundation of the Oklahoma music scene for me to this day.
I don’t know what it was about Carter that stood out for me, or what exactly it was that drew me to her songs. She has an incredible sensibility to her songwriting. It’s heartfelt, sincere, and honest. Whether it’s intended or not, there’s an inherent happiness that populates a Carter Sampson record and it’s something I’ve truly come to look forward to with each album she’s released. Sampson’s music is a little folksy, and a little country. There’s a smidgen of pop and a whole bunch of rootsy rock-n-roll, and it seems she’s always pushing the boundaries of her own comfort zones in an effort to find the “right” sound. In particular, I’ve noticed the latter most prevalent on her last album, Lucky and even more so now with Gold. Sampson is growing as an artist. It’s undeniable and it becomes readily apparent with the electronic sounds that open ‘Black Blizzard’, Gold’s lead-off track, which also ironically, immediately had me thinking of Moreland’s and Abney’s newest offerings, and also feature synth heavy tracks, and are also personal favorites. Funny how that works.
Gold was co-produced by Sampson and longtime collaborator, Kyle Reid. One heck of a songwriter and musician himself, Reid handled engineering and mixing on the recordings before Garrett Haines then mastered the album at Treelady Studios. Throughout the album, Reid lends his talents on pedal steel, guitar, synths and whatever else was needed or handy. In fact, Sampson and Reid recorded the majority of Gold themselves, with the exception of a couple of upright bass tracks by Johnny Carlton and one fiddle track by Lane Hawkins. As a result, I think it’s the most Carter Sampson-y album she’s released to date.
The album’s first single and catchiest cut, Gold, is certainly a personal one for Sampson. The song originated from one of “those” kind of days we’ve all had, where everything seems to be cratering. Sampson ended up having a good cry to her mom. Concerned she may have upset or worried her, Sampson sings, “So, Mama, don’t you worry about me. I’ll be fine, I won’t be bought; I won’t be sold, ’cause you made me out of Gold.”
The aforementioned “Black Blizzard” tells of lessons Sampson recently learned while revisiting tales of the Dust Bowl, a particularly sobering bit of Oklahoma history, and again, Reid’s masterful usage of electronics really brings the track full circle in it’s turbulence. “Drunk Text” provides a bit of country twanged levity and is a song that’ll inevitably get shopped in Nashville. With its country flavor,“Yippie Yi Yo” seems right at home among Carter’s trademark hat and red cowboy boots, while “Today is Mine” and “Pray & Scream” subtlety swings things more reflective and mindful.
For me though, I think I really found “Fingers to the Bone,” “Home,” and “Can’t Stop Me Now” to be my standout songs. All three seem to tackle the struggles of making a career in a business that’s fickle at best, and downright mean at it’s worst. These are songs other songwriters will adore simply because it’s so damn relatable to them. But, through it all, Carter still seems to inspire that inherent happiness I mentioned earlier, or perhaps it’s hope, and I found the albums closing track, “There’s Always Next Year” probably the strongest representation of that. Whatever it is, I think we could all use just a little bit more of it.
Carter will be performing a short run Oklahoma album release shows this weekend, and I’ll be covering her OKC show at The Blue Door this Friday. Later in the month she’ll be heading out for a few dates with Amelia White. Grab a copy of Gold this Friday and be sure to go see her if she’s in your town anytime soon. Keep up to date with Carter Sampson here: https://cartersampson.net/home
Enjoy our previous coverage here: Song Premiere: Carter Sampson “Gold”