Carter Sampson. Lucky. Continental Record Services

a1160217178_16She’s the self styled Queen of Oklahoma but Carter Sampson extended her sovereignty into European territories with the 2016 release of Wilder Side, her first album to see distribution on this side of the water.  Its success saw her playing at the Maverick, Glastonbury and Kilkenny Roots festivals as part of the eight tours of Europe she has undertaken in the past two years and on the eve of another visit we get a brand new album to whet our appetite.

Recorded with fellow Oklahoma musicians including Kyle Reid, John Calvin Abney and Jared Tyler (erstwhile travelling companion of Malcolm Holcombe) Lucky is a magnificent collection of upbeat country numbers and yearning love songs all entwined with pedal steel and Dobro. The album kicks off with the title song which is just about as perfect an example of sinewy country rock as one can imagine. The band chug excellently with Jared Tyler on Dobro snaking in and out as Sampson effortlessly sings of her good fortune in life. The mesh of guitars, piano, organ and Dobro here is terrific, reminding one of Rainer’s recordings with Giant Sand, a great start to the album. Luck pops up again on the following Anything To do, another excellent band effort as they offer up a finely sun dappled romp with piano to the fore while Peaches, with Carter reminiscing on childhood days, glides along on some succulent pedal steel playing. On Ten Penny Nail, a song inspired by a tale about Guy Clark, they delve into a southern swampy sound with Sampson sounding like a feisty Bobbie Gentry and there’s more southern touches on the existential All I Got with Sampson singing, ” All  I’ve got it don’t mean nothing if I don’t know who I am.” Meanwhile Wild Ride finds Sampson in a sassy mood as she sings of a turbulent relationship with the lyrics essentially recalling Bette Davis in All About Eve when she says, “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

Throughout the album Carter’s lyrics are impressive, able to cast a thought, an image, memory or emotion with style but she allows space for a couple of covers from some fellow Oklahoma songwriters. Zac Copeland’s Hello Darling is a fine slow country waltz with creamy pedal steel while Kayln Fay’s Tulsa with its fatback bass and spidery acoustic guitar celebrates the titular city with some aplomb. The album closes with another cover, a song which has been a regular fixture of her live shows, Shel Silverstein’s Queen of the Silver Dollar. Sampson gives the song a reverential reading, wringing out the pathos of the original while the band are just superb, sounding as if this were the Flying Burrito Brothers playing. Prior to this Sampson gives us the tale of Rattlesnake Kate (another live favourite) about a woman who lived on the edge in frontier times at one point killing off a horde of rattlesnakes and turning heir hides into a dress.  Here Sampson approaches Townes Van Zandt territory and again the band turn in an excellent performance just nailing this excellent album. . One of the best of the year so far.

Carter Sampson kicks off her UK tour this Saturday in Glasgow at the Glad Cafe, all other dates are here.

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Carter Sampson. Queen Of Oklahoma and Other Songs. Continental Song City

a3937328516_16Carter 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