Better Angels

I love twang, train beats and banjers as much as anyone, so it’s cool to have Bakersfield school country troubadour Dave Gleason and the wild-a## bluegrass of The Cleverlys coming back to the Loveless stage for our Feb 15 show. But as I looked at our lineup for the week, I was particularly excited to see that in one show, we’ll be treated two of the most distinctive and intelligent female artists emerging in the US right now. Angel Snow and Samantha Crain won’t be categorized or cornered. One may tend to the elegant and the other to the earthy, but I believe both of them to be truly state of the art.

Many may share my initial reaction to hearing the name Angel Snow, which went something like: ‘no way.’ But it is her real name, and I’ve evolved from reflexively associating it with something off of Toddlers & Tiaras to thinking that it might be one of her most valuable assets. Because once you hear her music, you’re going to take this woman seriously, and the evocation of an ethereal, wintry mood is entirely appropriate in her case.

Snow, originally from Chickamauga, GA, started singing and writing as a girl. She says a formative experience was a move out west in her early 20s, where she worked in Yellowstone and Yosemite Parks. That may explain the spacious skies quality of her music. Her Nashville experience was fundamentally transformed by an introduction to Alison Krauss. Snow landed an opening slot for Krauss at the Ryman in 2011 and landed several songs on her amazing Paper Airplane album of the same year. One of those cuts, “Lie Awake” is easily in my top five sides that came out in 2011. As a combination of song and performance, it’s perfection. Angel’s own delivery, which you can check out HERE, is in a deeper key but no less beguiling. It’s set for release this summer (August she hopes) on her sophomore release. The album will credit Viktor Krauss as producer and co-writer, and that’s Alison’s brother. He’ll bring his bass and be in the band on Wednesday.

Samantha Crain first came to my attention about three years ago, when her album Songs In The Night was making the rounds. With melodies that took surprising scenic routes and a voice of expressive wonder, it became a favorite. I was soon to find out though that the country leanings on that CD weren’t all Crain likes to work with. The next recording, You (Understood), featured broken beats, stressed guitars and that incredibly confident yet comforting vocal style that marks Crain as an important American original. She hails from Shawnee, OK and one reviewer noted there are traces of state-mates Woody Guthrie and the Flaming Lips in her work. Her spot on the roster of Ramseur Records should give her a great platform for whatever dazzling vision she comes up with next.

Besides all that, it’s a big night all around, with a roster of six (!) acts. We’ll also hear from Dala, Canada’s Vocal Group of the Year at that country’s 2010 Folk Music Awards. And we’ll hear what Jenny Parrott of Shotgun Party has gotten up to now that her swingy western band’s gone its separate ways. The act is a duo called Loves It!, and perhaps we’ll loves it.

We’d love to see you all at the barn or online.

Craig H.

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