Risk taking? That’s what Ear Bliss is all about from week to week and this week we dare you to discover two acts, one a feisty and barely five-foot edgy Americana singer and songwriter from Oklahoma named Samantha Crain who charms all who see and hear her play (and she touches down in our capital city on Sunday night!) and another with an unusual name and a sound lineage that traces back to the beauty of Big Star. Enter at your own risk.
Samantha Crain hails from Shawnee, Okla. When first seeing her play her music live, it was an afternoon performance at a quickly slapped-together room in Austin, Texas, in March of 2010. Such is the annual South-by-Southwest music confab which explodes for a few days each spring in that hipster enclave. Crain was showcasing her just released album “You (Understood)” and the room was mobbed. Her diminutive size prevented much of a view, but the emotion and passion in her voice struck a nerve that the sight of someone could not. Crain commands attention when she performs with her albums the initial calling card. “Kid Face” is her latest and it grabs the gut right out of the gates. For this album, Crain sought out producer John Vanderslice who has helmed albums by the likes of Spoon and The Mountain Goats. There’s good chemistry aplenty on the album and whereas “Kid Face” has plenty of tempting sonic touches, it is the voice and songs of Crain that rises above any and all flourishes. Think an artist on the order of singer/songwriter Mary Gauthier whose songs sink their teeth way deep. Ms. Crain is a special talent and “Kid Face” an album that grows with each listen. Visit www.samanthacrain.com .
Samantha Crain performs at The Parlour in Providence on Sunday evening. Also on the bill are Barn Burning, Daniel Chase and Cousin Tommy. The Parlour is located at 1119 North Main St. Music begins at the very appealing hour of 6 p.m.
The Parson Red Heads
Second Motion Records
Its predominant shades are influential 70s cult rockers Big Star and seminal folk/country rockers The Byrds. The album is “Yearling” from Portland, Ore.-based band The Parson Red Heads. Originally released in 2011 for a small Portland indie, “Yearling” was just another of many small label releases that slip through the cracks year after year. Suffice to say, it was out of print by the following year. After getting a whiff of the album and the ensuing 2012 EP from the band called Murmurations, the folks at North Carolina-based Second Motion Records decided this was a band that needed to be heard. Gorgeous melodies wrapped around oft-times beautiful three and four-part harmonies make for a collection of ultra-compelling music and songs just daring folks to try a listen. Formed in Eugene, Ore., in 2003, the band made the move to Los Angeles where from 2005 to 2010 it honed its chops writing songs and taking every gig it could get. The band made the move back to Portland in 2010 and embarked on making a proper record which became “Yearling” which drew largely from those L.A. years. The newly released deluxe reissue, which checks in at 17 ear-tempting tracks, combines the entirety of “Yearling” along with the 2012 EP and is timed to set the stage for the band’s upcoming new album due out later this year. Consider it the perfect appetizer. Visit the label’s website for more information at www.secondmotionrecords.com .
Need a live music fix to cure your winter doldrums without having to venture into the wee hours? You can never go wrong with The Ocean Mistics who play every Saturday afternoon at The Ocean Mist (895 Matunuck Beach Road, Matunuck). Music gets going about 3:30 p.m. and it’s free admission.
They’re calling it “Rhode Island Loves the Rockaways” and it happens Sunday afternoon at Club Fete in Providence (103 Dike St.). It’s a benefit to help that Queens community on the south shore of Long Island hit so hard by Hurricane Sandy. Plenty of local performers will be on hand to donate their time and play some music and it is a kid-friendly event.
Jack Black has lots of personality and just looking at him, you know something funny is coming. In addition to the acting career, he is also a rocker of the satirical variety. He brings that side of his persona to Lupo’s Hearbreak Hotel (70 Washington St.) in Providence on Sunday night in the form of his band Tenacious D. Old school acoustic music is how it’s being billed and it’s guaranteed to be an in your face experience. Local hero Sasquatch is in the opening slot and doors open at 6:30 for the 7:30 p.m. show.
(Dan Ferguson is a free-lance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 – 9 pm on WRIU-FM 90.3.)