Carter Sampson “Lucky” (Horton Records, 2018)

Carter Sampson’s voice rolls across these songs as the winds across the great plains of her native Oklahoma.  Sounding simultaneously innocent and world-weary, her voice can at times recall the breathy yet powerful delivery of a Midwestern Natalie Merchant.  Sampson lives inside the lyrics she sings.  You get the feeling she’s experienced every word. 

‘Lucky’ is Sampson’s fifth studio album, and where most would have settled into a predictable groove, Sampson is still searching, and the listener is all the better for it.  The opening title track sets the mood with a wide-open driving country anthem detailing how lucky the narrator indeed is.  “I’ve got a man who loves me with everything he had / I got a pretty cool mama and I’ve got a pretty cool dad / fairy godmother, spirits in my head / sons I’ve never asked for and daughters I never had.”

‘Anything Else to Do’ is a beautiful love song where Sampson urges her paramour to love her like he hasn’t anything else to do over a sinewy electric guitar, atmospheric piano, and a driving brushed snare. It takes quite a bit of moxie to name an original song on a country album ‘Hello Darlin’, but that’s the type of artist we’re dealing with here, with apologies to Conway Twitty.  Its sentiment of the discovering of new love is sweet without being saccharine. The tempo picks up and Sampson rocks out a bit on ‘Ten Penny Nail,’ proving she can turn up the intensity without forcing it.  Like everything else on the album, it’s as natural as an Oklahoma twister. Closing ‘Lucky’ is a cover of the Shel Silverstein classic, ‘Queen of the Silver Dollar.’  Here, Sampson handles the story of woman all too familiar with the honky-tonk life with a surprising amount of empathy and understanding.   

With its uncompromising organic sound, consistently strong songwriting throughout, and infectiously passionate vocals, ‘Lucky’ turns out to be Sampson’s best album to date, and one of the best Americana albums of the year so far. There must be something out in those Oklahoma plains that just pours grit and authenticity into every note sung or played.  From Leon Russell and J.J. Cale to the Tractors, J.D. McPherson, and Carter Sampson.  That anyone can count themselves among such company is truly lucky indeed.

9/10

Summary

Oklahoma powerhouse delivers her best to date

Author: Mike Elliott

A husband, father, writer, musician, former disc jockey and radio program director, lover of bad jokes, Dylan fanatic, and an all-around pretty good guy.

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