Carter Sampson's "Lucky" Album Drops October 26th.
Award-Winning Oklahoma Artist Carter Sampson is set to release her 5th studio album, Lucky, on October 26th with Horton Records.
Sampson, a touring machine, knows what she's working with; her powerful, breathy vocal prowess, her red boots, and a load of gratitude for her ascending career trajectory.
Sampson, who in her spare time serves as founder and director of the Rock & Roll Camp for Girls – OKC, broke all sorts of new ground with Lucky: first time working with producer Jason Scott (in one of his first ever recording projects), first time to tap renowned mixing engineer Wes Sharon (Turnpike Troubadours, Parker Millsap), and more than any album before renders choice cuts penned by other writers ranging from local favorites (Zac Copeland, Kalyn Fay) to literary legends (Shel Silverstein).
Sampson's fifth studio album feature contributions from mostly new collaborators, including Jared Tyler (dobro, vocals), James Purdy (drums), John Calvin Abney (keys, electric guitar, harmonica), Kyle Reid (keys, guitar, pedal steel), Luke Mullenix (bass), Jack Waters (drums, vocals), and backing vocalists Erik Oftedahl, Nellie Clay and Ken Pomeroy, among others.
Partially written and recorded in Colorado, Sampson's inspirations from the Rocky Mountain State bleed through on "Peaches" and the epic "Rattlesnake Kate".
"Peaches" was penned in a backyard paradise belonging to her friend Kahlie Sue Pinello, reminiscent of a real life wonderland, in Lyons and is a grateful ode to her childhood. "Rattlesnake Kate", on the other hand, is a foot-stomping tale of a legendary leading lady in Colorado folklore that fought snakes all day on horseback with a rifle (with a child in tow!), reminding us how perfect the universe can be when badasses connect in story and song. Organically, the "Lucky" theme bleeds throughout the record, from the dobro-filled title cut to the biopic romp, "Wild Ride".
I caught up with Sampson this week to ask her a few questions about the album, including how she felt like this one was different than her other albums.
“I think the sound is different first off. I knew I wanted to do something different this time, the content is different,” said Sampson. “This album is more personal, there's more love songs than I have ever put on a record. I just tend to write about what's happening in my life.”
Sampson also talked a little more about the three cover songs she put on the album, which is something she hasn’t done before.
“I have a lot of really talented friends, and Kalyn Fay wrote the song ‘Tulsa’ and I've always loved singing that song with her and listening to her play it. She was kind enough to let me record it. We did change it a little bit, and kind of made it my own,” said Sampson. “Then Zac Copeland wrote ‘Hello Darlin'‘ and it's one of the most beautiful songs that I've ever heard and I am honored to get to sing that one too. The last one is by Shel Silverstein, one of my favorite authors of all time, and I've been playing Queen of the Silver Dollar for years just for fun. And someone said ‘Why don't you put that on the record?’ and my first reaction was that I could never do that, because EmmyLou Harris has recorded it, and all of these other people that I admire. But we ended up doing it and I'm really glad we did.”
Sampson says she doesn’t have a regimented writing schedule or style, and that songs and lyrics just come to her, when they come to her. When I asked her what the strangest inspiration has been for a song, she thought about the story-telling songs from this new album.
“I feel like ‘Rattlesnake Kate’ was almost divine intervention, that I heard the story that inspired it. My friend Kahlie Sue Pinello, we were out at her house, we had played a show in a tiny little town in Colorado. We came back to her house and she just nonchalantly said ‘How was your day? Did you see Rattlesnake Kate's dress?, and I was like, what are you talking about? And she told me a little bit and I learned the rest,” said Sampson.
You can actually go read more about the real RattleSnake Kate by clicking here, you’re welcome.
But that’s not the only story telling song on the album that was inspired by real life events.
“Ten Penny Nail is a story about Guy Clark, and Townes Van Zandt, and Susanna Clark. Guy Clark physically nailed himself into his room to get away from them, and Dan Martin told me that one. I feel lucky to have those stories kind of just handed to me, because both of those songs I really love and I would have never been able to write them on my own had somebody not given me that inspiration. It's the kind of stuff you can't make up,” said Sampson with a laugh.
Next I asked her what the most interesting thing is that she has learned about herself this year.
“I don't like being rushed, it really gets to me. I don't know if I'm just learning this about myself or if it's just manifesting itself in a weird way, but I can't handle it. It's just bad. I need my time,” replied Sampson. “I'm also trying to learn to accept my time and what I can do with it. I have a hard time sitting still, and sometimes you need to. That and I am trying to accept that I don't have normal people hours and that's okay. I'm a night owl anyway. But if I stay up all night working on some art pieces and then sleep in until like 11 a.m. I just feel guilty, and Erik is like, ‘you have to stop doing that to yourself, because you don't have normal 9-5 hours.’ So I'm trying to learn how to use my time wisely and learn that working until 3 a.m. Is acceptable business hours.”
Sampson says while she feels like she’s pretty much an open book and doesn’t know if there’s anything about her that people would be interested to learn about her, that she does have some interesting collections of things.
“I love treasure hunting and junking. I have weird collections of things, I collect things made out of seashells, like animals and other strange things. And I collect coconut monkeys, like those banks made out of coconuts that you get while at tropical locations. I have quite a few of those. They are a little creepy maybe, people will be at my house and be like, those things are looking at me…” Sampson said with a chuckle.
While she says she is proud of all of her albums, she’s particularly proud of this one.
“I'm really proud of this one and what came out of it when I combined powers with Jason who has been a huge part of this record. We just shot a music video and he directed it and was behind the camera and there's been so much of it that I couldn't have done without him, and I'm just so glad that I had him for it,” said Sampson. “Plus just having all the players on it. I feel like finally, after like 20 years, I have found my band. We just work together, we're all friends, we all like each other, we all laugh together a lot, so that was really helpful.”
The line up of phenomenal artists on this album is really a sight to see, the collaborative effort of sounds and styles really does make Lucky pretty magical, if I do say so myself. Also they shot the music video out at Monica Taylor's pecan grove at her house in Perkins, and it should be out in the next week or so after the album comes out. I’m really looking forward to checking it out.
“I also feel like it's also the most honest I have ever been in writing, and I'm trying to do that more and more. And it is a total ode to gratitude, I think the older I get the more I realize that I am super lucky to get to do what I want to do and the things that I love to do the most,” said Sampson. “I think about it a lot about how different my life would be if I had to wake up every morning and go to an office or something that I just wasn't comfortable or good at. I think it's a pretty happy record.”
Something also a little new during Sampson’s album release shows, of which there are three, is that she’s going to have some art for sell at the merch booth.
“I'm going to have some art pieces available at all 3 of those shows and I've never done that before. They are kind of mixed media shrines, slash alters, to some of my favorite musicians. I have one that's Gram Parsons, Elvis, Patsy Cline and I'm working on Dolly Parton. It's kind of a different way to release some creativity,” said Sampson.
The info for those release shows are:
10/26 CD RELEASE PARTY Blue Door Oklahoma City, OK
11/3 CD RELEASE PARTY Soul City, Tulsa, OK
12/1 CD RELEASE PARTY Cimarron Breeze, Perkins, OK
Now onto the album review.
Lucky was co-produced by Carter Sampson & Jason Scott
Engineered by Jason Scott at ONStudios in Moore, OK
Mixed by Wes Sharon at 115 Recording Studio in Norman, OK
Mastered by Garrett Haines at Treelady Studios in Pittsburg, PA
Cover Painting by Stuart Sampson
Graphic Design by Kalyn Fay and Ali Harter
The players on it are as follows:
Carter Sampson - vocals, tenor guitar, acoustic guitar
Jason Scott - vocals, drums, acoustic guitar, mandolin, backing vocals
Jared Tyler - dobro, backing vocals, banjo, mandola
James Purdy - drums
John Calvin Abney - keys, electric guitar, harmonica, percussion
Kyle Reid - keys, electric guitar, pedal steel, hammer & nail
Luke Mullenix - Bass
Jack Waters - drums, backing vocals
Erik Oftedahl, Ken Pomeroy, Nellie Clay - backing vocals
Kahlie Sue Pinello - flood piano on ‘Ten Penny Nail’
Zac Copeland - acoustic guitar on ‘Hello Darlin’
‘Lucky’- The album title track opens the show and it is a steady paced, toe-tapping tune, with Sampson's breathy and throaty voice singing about how lucky she is. It makes you want to groove right along with it. The layers of amazing instruments gives it so much depth, including the dobro and pedal steel that rounds it out nicely.
‘Anything Else to Do’- This is a sincerely romantic love song that starts out slow and sweet and picks up some speed along the way. Sampson's vocals are strong yet light, in a captivating way. “Love me like you ain't got anything else to do”, she sings. This one is my personal favorite of the album, although it was such a hard choice to just pick one. The varied instruments add a deeper, more complex pattern to the light and fun song. The keys give it a great balance.
‘Peaches’- This song starts off with a great drum beat, and Sampson's voice comes swinging in with exquisite ease, weaving a story of her family and growing up. It gives such vivid imagery, dripping with enchanting nostalgia, all wrapped up in a lovely tune. Sampson's voice is just amazing through this whole album, in the way she manages to create this strong and throaty feel while still managing for it to feel like a whisper sometimes, airy and free. She’s got pipes and vocal range for sure.
‘Hello Darlin' – is penned by Copeland, a slow and tender love song, that Sampson adds her own red dirt magic to with her delightful vocals. It’s just soft and sweet, and makes you smile. The backing vocals add a perfect mix to it as well. Copeland does a fantastic job on the guitar throughout the song.
‘Ten Penny Nail’ – This might be the most interesting song on this album, but it's a hard call really. It's a rocking song with a great backstory. It was inspired by a story told to Sampson by Dan Martin, about a famous musical love triangle, and what happens when it goes south and one of them nails himself into a room to get away from the other two. Sampson's soulful crooning makes it all that more fantastic as she really brings the story to life with the way she carries her voice throughout the song. You can also hear the nails being hammered into the door, a compelling way to tie it all together. Fantastically done.
‘All I Got’- Is soft and slow, filled with 'tell it like it is' lyrics, as Sampson explores who she is and the life she's lived. Her voice is both captivating and delicate, and the uncomplicated instrumentals gives it a very genuine and pure vibe. It’s simple and real.
‘Tulsa’- A song by Kalyn Fay, is a fun song. It’s a little laid back and undemanding, and holds you to it with it's charming lyrics and Sampson's flawless delivery of them. The instrumentals are layered and blended in a fantastic way with so many different sounds, the backing vocals add depth and strength to the song as well.
‘Wild Ride’ – Offers slightly deeper and alluring vocals by Sampson, which shows off her capabilities and range when it comes to her versatile voice. “Hold on tight, it's going to be a wild ride. I won't let go if you won't let go too....” It's a sweet as honey little love song delivered with a little smokey fire.
‘Rattlesnake Kate’- Is a great story telling song, about a real woman named Rattlesnake Kate, from Colorado, who lived her life as a badass, full of strength and determination. She did it on her own, and made a name for herself in the process. The lyrics are as captivating as the tune, Sampson's voice brings it to life in only the way that the Queen of Oklahoma can.
‘Queen of the Silver Dollar’ – Penned by Shel Silverstein, Sampson brings this song to life in an almost elegant way, while still holding that touch of the honky tonk. The song weaves a lovely tale of the Queen of the silver dollar, and Sampson does it justice.
Overall, I’m highly impressed with the album as a whole. Sampson still weaves together the folk rock, Americana, Red Dirt, Honky Tonk sounds in a way that continues to evolve for her, while still being consistent. Her songwriting is brilliant, and her voice always blows me away. The players on the album bring her songs to life in extraordinary ways. There are some damn good musicians all the way around on this thing. I personally loved that it was peppered with so many happy and sweet love songs, it just makes me smile.
You’ll definitely want to get your hands on it this Friday, and make plans to make it to one of the three album release shows and pick up a piece of art in the process!