Carter Sampson created a bit of a stir when she released Wilder Side back in 2016, her red dirt country laments packing an emotional punch that resonated with listeners here and in Europe. Wilder Side was the first of her albums to be released over here and this selection of songs from her previous releases is a handy catch up for those who were enamoured by her, on disc or in person on her recent tours over here.
Running at a generous 60 plus minutes Queen Of Oklahoma gathers up five songs from Mockingbird Sing and six from Good For The Morning plus a couple from digital only solo releases, Thirty Three and Over The Moon. With the earliest songs dating back to 2011 they show Sampson as a fully-fledged songwriter and performer from the start. The opening songs (Be My Wildwood Flower and Queen Of Oklahoma) are rich in their alt country loam recalling at times the rough and ready Cheri Knight while Jesse James is a plugged in blast of chugging country rock with Sampson as rugged as John Fogarty as she wails away. I Don’t Want Him (from Good For The Meantime) winds down the chug somewhat with its back porch fiddle over a wonderfully loose rhythm section while Honeybee is a delicious concoction of swirling organ (played by John Fullbright) and jangled guitars with Sampson here just perfect in her languid vocals. Sanctuary rips along with some fine twang guitar breaks and Payne County Line is an excellent moody number with the baleful lyrics somewhat offset by the upbeat banjo rippling that runs throughout.
There are a few more intimate moments. I Am Yours features just Sampson and her guitar and shows that on her own she can be just as powerful as with a band behind her and this is reinforced on the compelling tale of Annie, a narrative that allows Sampson ample room to stake her claim as an excellent writer. The album closes with Better Ways (from Mockingbird Soul), a song that again is stripped back and again shows off Sampson as dirt stained and able to inveigle her way into the heart and soul of hard scrabbled folk.
Queen Of Oklahoma was released to tie in with Carter Sampson’s Europe tour back in May but she returns this weekend for an appearance at Glastonbury. If you can’t make that then this album is a perfect introduction and it’s available here