Recorded and mixed in just eight days in the San Francisco studio of producer John Vanderslice (the Mountain Goats, Spoon), this wildly original album stands as the definitive statement thus far from an uncommonly insightful, fearlessly honest young singer/songwriter.
The most apparent thematic thread running through the album is restlessness. The first-person narrators of these 11 songs are in constant motion, as they feel the tug of the far horizon or the need to escape from their present circumstances, ruminating about what may lie ahead and what they’re leaving behind—roots, family, a lover.
When asked about the impulse behind this prevailing theme, Crain explains, “The common element of these songs is me; I’m the narrator of all of them. It’s completely autobiographical, a musical journal of my experiences—things that have happened to me as I traveled and my thoughts about specific situations. In the past, I resisted writing about myself because I was ashamed of how normal I was.” She punctuates this admission with a quick laugh. “So I wrote about the people I met in my travels. But having done this for a few years, I’ve gained confidence, and this time I wanted to tap into the feeling of getting older and knowing more about myself. I think that makes this record more relatable, more blue-collar.”
Instantly accessible by way of the ecstatic melodic lifts embedded in each song, which enable Crain to explore the full range of her powerful but achingly vulnerable voice, Kid Face gradually reveals its depth and nuance over repeated listenings. Crisp, vivid images and liquid internal rhymes betray Crain’s painterly attention to texture and the minutest detail. No song overstays its welcome, as she exhibits a rarefied economy of expression, an open-ended willingness to leave certain things unsaid, to resist the urge to dissect the mysteries of life.
As it turns out, Crain came to her gift obliquely. “It may seem odd, but wanting to travel preceded my wanting to get good at songwriting and performing,” she confesses. “In fact, I started playing music in order to travel. Living in a small town in Oklahoma, there wasn’t much going on, and I got itchy, so I started going out on the road and playing everywhere that would have me. At that time, a few years ago, the coffeehouse circuit was more welcoming than it is now; usually, all I had to do to get a show was to send a demo to the booker.” Initially hitting the road as a duo with her roommate at the time, Crain began to satisfy her desperate need for raw material, and her experiences “traveling and meeting people and getting to see different places” began to feed and animate her songwriting, about which she was becoming increasingly passionate. In a sense, then, Crain was following in the footsteps of an earlier Oklahoma-born troubadour, Woody Guthrie.
A Choctaw Indian, Crain grew up in the small town of Shawnee listening to her father’s Dylan and Grateful Dead records, dabbling in painting (a pursuit she took seriously enough to later land a gallery exhibition in Oklahoma City) and trying her hand at writing short stories. When she became intrigued by the notion of writing songs, Crain reworked a series of stories she’d written while taking creative writing classes at Oklahoma Baptist University.
Counterbalancing Crain’s wanderlust is a rootedness that exerts just as strong a pull. “I’ve lived in other places these last few years, but never for long,” she says. “Coming back home brings me perspective and focus.” These leavening aspects are as integral to the impact of her songs as the experiences that inspired her to write them.
Ultimately, the movement in the songs of Kid Face is purposeful, as Crain searches for herself and her place in the universe. Think of Kid Face as a key early chapter in what promises to be an extended, enthralling personal saga. Woody would have been proud.
All analog recording:
All tracking was done on Quantegy GP9 2" tape
Recorded on a Studer A827 24-track tape deck
Mixdown was done on ATR 1/2" tape
Recorded on an Ampex ATR 102 2-track tape deck
Neotek Elite (custom 40-channel)
Natural echo chamber used
Signal chain for most lead vocal tracks:
mic: Josephson c715 in cardioid
mic pre: DW Fearn VT-2
compressor: Purple Audio MC77
Otari mx5050 1/4" tape deck used for tape delay on lead vocals
1904 Story & Clark Upright
recorded in stereo with Shoeps cmc6 with mk21 wide cardioid capsules
occasionally Ibanez AD202 was added for FX
AKG D12 on kick drum
Josephson c42 on snare drum
Shoeps cmc6 for mono overhead
Acoustic Guitar mic:
Shoeps cmc6 with mk4 capsule
Electric Bass Guitar:
Avalon U5 DI
split to: SansAmp Classic pedal
Moog Source monophonic synthesizer used throughout the record
Lexicon PCM 41 used for acoustic guitar FX
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