by Robert Bell
9:30 p.m. White Water Tavern. $7.
A good many fans of Americana here in Central Arkansas are probably already familiar with Oklahoma singer/songwriter Samantha Crain. She's played at White Water Tavern on numerous occasions, and returns Friday on tour for her new record, "Kid Face," out this week.
The album isn't a radical departure from Crain's mostly country- and folk-steeped songs. Spare piano chords, a whining violin and ghostly pedal steel make fleeting appearances that keep the listener's ears on their toes. "For the Miner" has an almost-funky bass line that wouldn't sound out of place on something from Ditch Trilogy-era Neil Young. There are some woozy strings and keys that add an air of tension to an otherwise low-key tune.
John Vanderslice's production is excellent throughout, giving the record a wide-open sound, the songs augmented by instrumental flourishes that never distract from Crain's words. Which is nice, because she gets in some good ones, like these from "Taught to Lie," the album's second track: "You'd think I'd get a phone call from your rolling mansion / It's been four years, you gotta know that I've changed, you gotta know that I am different / I did a pretty bad thing but it's nothing that I wouldn't mention."
Compared to Crain's previous album, 2010's "You (Understood)," "Kid Face" is quite a bit darker and more subdued, but it also sounds like a big step forward. Also on the bill is the redoubtable singer, songwriter, storyteller and all-around enjoyable dude Kevin Kerby.