Carter Sampson - Wilder Side

Continental Song City Records

Oklahoma-born Carter Sampson has that complete individuality of style that sets her apart when so many singer-songwriters blend together with nothing making one recognisably different from the next. She speaks her mind in her poetry, and is not afraid to set up a musical expectation that shifts gears in unexpected ways. She evokes the lurch of the road and the comfort of home with a playful and poignant lyricism wrapped in clear musical arrangements. A beautiful, alive, human she offers shambling ballads, catchy country songs, vivid portraits of a 30-plus-year-old’s watercolour life. She’s something of a restless soul as she declares in the freedom-loving Highway Ride: ‘Home is where the heart is. Ain’t that a shame, Because I can’t seem to keep my heart in the same place.’

Tough, sweet, and hard to shake, WILDER SIDE contains some of the best songwriting you’re likely to hear this year. Whether driving and seasoning with pedal steel and banjo the gently swinging honky-tonk of Run Away, or creating the ideal atmosphere for the eye-opening desolation and stoic acceptance of life’s travails in Everything You Need, these songs are indispensable.

Carter’s performances are as honest as her lyrics and music; you can’t help but believe each word sung and even harder to resist is when you are drawn into beautifully crafted lyrics, guaranteed to melt both your heart and your soul. From the pained honesty of Take Me Home With You to the jaunty Tomorrow Light with its recollections of missed opportunities Carter’s songwriting identifies life’s heartbreak and bitter ironies without losing hope. The evocative Medicine River is a loving tribute to Medicine Park in the Wichita Mountains, a place that clearly touched her deep down inside on her many travels.

Credit should also go to producer Travis Linville who plays a variety of instruments and dresses the songs and Carter Sampson’s voice in near-perfect musical arrangements. It’s a sound to get lost in, without having to worry about finding your way back. Her smooth yet biting drawl of a voice and music that revels in the swampy soul where groove trumps hooks results in an album rich in profound songwriting of self-reflection and rediscovery in a sonic intimacy and edginess as a rare product of the meeting of musical minds and talents. WILDER SIDE is one of those records that moves you and seeps deep into your soul, staying with you for days and weeks to come.