Kindred spirits: Cat Power, Beth Orton,
Show: With Bombadil on Thursday at Sixth and I Historic Synagogue. Show starts at
8 p.m. 202-408-3100. www.sixthandi.org.
$10 in advance, $12 at the door.
Because she is short with sheepdog bangs over her girlish face, Samantha Crain is often mistaken for a teenager. She is 26, and her nickname is “Kid Face.”
That’s also the title of her new album, and on the title tune, she recounts a trip to Mexico during which she found herself stranded not only between two countries, but also between childhood and adulthood. The melody makes short-lived stabs at forward motion, then retreats and starts again. The lyrics hint that Crain herself is similarly searching for a path ahead.
Rather than smoothing over her dissatisfaction with the present and her uncertainty about the future, Crain uses that tension to power these nervous, confessional songs. John Vanderslice, the indie-rock cult hero who also has produced the Mountain Goats, frames Crain’s songs in skeletal arrangements of ghostly keyboards and hide-and-seek guitars, which reinforces the notion that she’s singing to herself in a kind of private musical journal.
In these 11 songs, Crain is leaving her Oklahoma hometown to visit Mexico, to move to Oregon, to holiday in Manitoba, to tour Europe, to get away from bad relationships, or she’s coming back home again. On the album’s catchiest song, the bouncy, country-rock “Somewhere All the Time,” Crain sounds as if she has made peace with restlessness, but on the anguished final track, “We’ve Been Found,” she confesses, “I’m not mad, I’m conflicted.”