INTERVIEW: Samantha Crain, A Renaissance

Every artist is once in a lifetime. Each artist, no matter their Spotify streams, brings something new to the table. Never discount somebodies’ artistry.

Although finding an artist that speaks straight to your soul individually, that’s a rare occurrence. Samantha Crain is one of those artists.

There is something about artists from the southern/midwest. Authenticity and truth seem to run deep in their blood. Everything in their music is pure. From absolute joy to utter heartbreak, these artists respect everything life brings their way. Crain’s is of Choctaw descent. Words cannot describe how this element affects her music. It’s there. It’s extraordinary.

I was introduced to Crain’s music through her fourth album, Under Branch and Thorn and Tree. The song “Elk City” immediately spoke to me, as it takes place in Oklahoma, my home. As the album continued, song after song, I found an emotional connection to the entire album, especially with “Killer,” “When You Comeback,” and “Moving Day.”

Through various circumstances, Crain and I connected, and she agreed to an interview with Vinyl Culture. Her raw truth and authenticity show in her answers and I couldn’t be happier she took the time.

1. You draw inspiration from your Oklahoma roots especially in songs like “Elk City.” What inspires you about Oklahoma?

Honestly, I think Elk City might be the only song I’ve ever written that actually took place in Oklahoma. I mean I obviously have an attachment to Oklahoma, as I’m from here and currently live here, but I’m largely inspired by leaving Oklahoma and traveling and seeing things outside of my roots. I personally don’t see the “Oklahoma roots” in my music but that’s what’s great about art, everyone can see something different in the same thing!

2. Your Choctaw lineage plays a large part in both your music (“Red Sky, Blue Mountain”) and activism. Where do you find the most inspiration in your heritage?

I think it is really important to understand when asking about how Indigenous artists implement their heritage into their art that people understand, for most tribes, their heritage was completely stripped from them by way of land theft, breaking of treaties, federally implemented assimilation boarding schools, genocide, abuse and marginalization from missionaries, colonization, disease, forced impoverishment, shame, etc. Most Indigenous artists are relying on holding on to the little bits that have managed to be passed down to them and keeping modern Indigenous art alive by creating new traditions and learning their languages again. Every note I make is Choctaw music because I am Choctaw.

3. You are not supposed to have favorite children, but out of all your albums, which one is your most favorite and most personal?

Sorry, can’t pick a favorite child.

4. In the end, what do you want people to walk away with after they listen to a Samantha Crain record?

To be honest, I make records to express myself. I don’t make records for a listener. I love that people connect to what I’m doing and I love to hear those stories, but I do not make music or records with anything in mind as far as what I want people to experience within them.

5. How does it feel to receive recognition from others with similar Native American roots as a Nammie Award winner and to be nominated for an Indigenous Music Award this year?

Good, I guess? I think the battle to be won though is to get to a societal point where Indigenous artists are actually included in the major awards like the Grammys and the Juno awards, and we don’t have to have our own award shows, and categories within the award shows.

And then just a few for fun…

1. What are you currently listening too?

Nilufer Yanya, The Japanese House, Sam Amidon, Jorja Smith, Justine Skye, William Tyler, This Is the Kit, Cocteau Twins, King Krule

2. It’s a lovely, slightly hot, weekend afternoon in Oklahoma. Where are you?

Probably just in my backyard honestly. I travel so much that I’m more or less a major homebody when I’m home.

3. Do you collect anything while on the road?

I collect music boxes, wall thermometers, and thimbles.

4. Where is your favorite place to perform?

Every show I’ve ever had in Washington DC and Glasgow have been excellent, so I guess the people in those cities just get me.

Currently, Crain is working on new music and about to embark on a tour of Europe. She has five albums out, and each brings a new contortion of emotion, authenticity, lyricism, and musicianship. They all have their own identity, yet they all flow together seamlessly.

Crain is one of those artists you cannot un-hear. From her multifaceted lyrics, pure, yet raw voice, and steady guitar, her music is a renaissance not only in folk music, but music created by those with indigenous heritage.

Samantha Crain is simply a must listen. Now that you are done reading this interview, head on over to her official site and check out everything that is Samantha Crain and buy a vinyl and maybe a t-shirt.


ALBUM REVIEW: Believe Again, 20 Years of Cher’s “Believe”

Some hits are timeless, while others eventually fall to the wayside. It’s safe to say that Cher’s 1998 hit, “Believe,” is here for good.

It has been 20 years since Cher released this iconic single, accompanied by its equally trailblazing album. The album Believe comes off the heels of Cher’s 1995 album, It’s A Man’s World. Although It’s A Man’s World truly shows the scope of Cher’s vocals, it was a commercial failure, only selling 700,000 copies worldwide to this day.  Believe came at a “do or die” moment in Cher’s career…..

Read the full article here on VENTS Magazine.

INTERVIEW: Pat Boone, An Original

It’s not often you find originals.  Everything seems to be a copy or some kind of transposition from something that has been made or done before. This encompasses careers, culture, and even everyday items.

Pat Boone, Vinyl Culture

I find this adage to be true in music today. Now I have to consider that a lot has been said, but nothing new seems to happen anymore. That’s why I collect vinyl and listen to the “original” artists of popular, R&B, and rock and roll today. One of the greatest originals that paved the way for modern music is Pat Boone.

Last week I spoke with Mr. Boone about his career, what he did for music, and where he sees music today.  We started out with the basics. How did Boone begin his career and how was his interest in music sparked?

I began to sing in my hometown of Nashville in my family. Mama was not a musician, but she could play some chords on the ukulele. She taught my brother and I those chords and we could sing at our family gatherings. Then in school starting in the 8th grade and into high school, whenever there was a need for a guy who could carry a tune and sing, I would either volunteer or be asked to do it. In high school, I was known as ‘Blue Moon Boone.’ I could sing “Blue Moon” anytime, anywhere.

From there, “Blue Moon Boone” began entering many talent contests, but couldn’t quite get to the top spot, always coming in 2nd. He eventually won a talent contest that sent him to NYC to try out for the Ted Mack Amateur Hour, the original American Idol, Boone informed me. Although right before he could have won the show, he went down to CBS and tried out for the Arthur Godfrey show and won! Dot records then contacted Boone and nearly 8 months later he was in the studio cutting his first hit record “Two Hearts, Two Kisses.”

It wasn’t long until Boone was recording million seller after million seller and making nearly three albums a year, not to mention graduating from college getting married, and having 4 children. Needless to say, he had his hands full. This helped lead way to his trademark, family friendly image.

When I graduated in ’58 from Columbia, Magna Cum Laude, I was on the cover of TV Guide in my cap and gown because of the TV show, “The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom.” It went out live, it wasn’t pre-taped or anything, it went out cold live every week!…You open up the TV Guide that I’m on the cover of and there is a picture of Shirley, my wife, and our four little girls. I was 23. It was a hectic, hectic time, but I was selling millions of records and during that period I was Elvis’ only competition.

Pat Boone, Vinyl Culture

What many people do not realize is that in the latter part of the 1950’s Boone and Presley matched nearly single for single in the charts and in sales. This rivalry was quite friendly though. As Boone later told me, they were “good buddies” and played flag football regularly.

Boone was now on the cusp of the new “rhythmic” music they were calling rock and roll. He had already recorded some R&B covers like Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That a Shame” and Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti.” Boone was excited to discuss his records that were rock and roll, but he also wanted to clear up a misconception. Many are quick to say these pop artists “stole” these records from R&B artists, but that simply wasn’t the case with Boone.

Fats Domino’s record of “Ain’t That a Shame” was a rhythm and blues hit on rhythm and blues radio…R&B music was not played on pop radio and the artists were not known on pop radio…when I recorded “Ain’t That a Shame” his [Fats Domino] had been number one on the R&B charts and sold 150,000. I recorded “Ain’t That A Shame” and it went to number one on the Pop Charts and sold 1.5 million copies….he was thrilled, same with Little Richard and “Tutti Frutti”…both said they were making more money off my recording of their songs than they were…

Today, Boone is a music business veteran who keeps on going. To this day, he still performs and is an active political and religious commentator. Boone made his records when the music industry was vastly different then what it is today. What was his take on where the industry had gone and what were the differences?

It’s all suits, programming, and executives running things. It used to be where if a doo-wop group made a demo they could walk into a radio station, give it to the DJ, he could play it, and it would become a hit. Now there is no such thing…That was a time when the public was choosing what they liked. Now they have to take whatever the record companies produce and give them. They will spend a half million on a record that will bomb and go nowhere, where we would spend three or four thousand and sell a million records…It was a time of creativity and innovation…millions are spent on finding the next hit, not something brand new and fresh.

Pat Boone, Vinyl CultureThere was once a time when music was organic and innovative. People were not restricted to just “big money” music, anybody could get a record on the air. If it was good, it got played. Sure there must have been some corruption here or there, but it really was that simple.

Boone comes from this era of simple innovation where originals were produced. He was one, if not the, original pop superstar that literally took over the radio and tv air waves. Always keeping his integrity, he paved a way for artists to come from the 1960’s to today. Copies are quickly and rapidly produced, but originals are hard to come by. Pat Boone is an original superstar that many imitate, but can never recreate.

Don’t forget to check out Israel’s 70th anniversary Gala hosted by Pat Boone here.

To learn more about Pat Boone visit his official website here.

Connect with Pat Boone:

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Top Music Takeaways of 2017

For me, 2017 has been a great year. Not only was it my first full year living in New York, but I made some amazing music discoveries and had life-altering musical experiences.  From being completely blown away by Paula Cole to seeing Kris Kristofferson in concert, it has been a good year for a music addict.

Below I have ranked my top music takeaways of 2017. So many sites are making “best of 2017” music countdowns, but this year has been full of experiences for me. Normally I don’t put my list in a ranking, but this one is in a particular order from least to most prolific.

5. Discovering St. Vincent

I know that I am late to the game on Annie Clark’s, i.e. St. Vincent’s, work. Her album MASSEDUCTION was hard to miss this year from its colorful cover to its raving reviews. I hope this is the “pop” of the future. This album is constantly spinning on my turntable and I am currently raking in her previous releases. Read my full review over MASSEDUCTION here.

Favorite Tracks: “Pills,” “Happy Birthday, Johnny,” and “New York”

4. Kris Kristofferson Concert

Small venues and legendary artists when put together, are amongst my favorite things. When I got word that Kris Kristofferson was going to be at City Winery in New York City, I knew I had to grab a ticket. Then, I found out I was eligible for a “meet and greet” ticket (Thanks MasterCard!). Seeing Kristofferson was one thing, but to stand by the legend himself was another. The show itself was the true highlight. His raw talent, sincerity, and gratefulness to all his fans was profound. It’s the only word I can use to describe the show. I wrote a full review over the concert here and come to find out the article was also featured on Kristofferson’s site  as well!

3. Discovering Griffin Anthony

As I was browsing Twitter one day I found Griffin Anthony. I looked up his material on Spotify and I was instantly hooked. There are two full-length albums and multiple EPs of Anthony’s on Spotify, but my favorite was his album The Making of A Man. Between Anthony’s songwriting and vocals and the record’s orchestration, this album should rank among Chris Stapleton’s Traveler and Sturgill Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide to Earth. Anthony has a deep reverence for country music, yet he finds a way to move it forward.

Favorite Tracks: “Lady Blue,” “What a Lie Looks Like,” “Alive”

2. Meeting Darlene Love

Darlene love is a musical masterpiece. She has one of the most vibrant and interesting careers in music, and she’s an amazing person! I was able to go back and meet Ms. Love after one of her Christmas shows at B.B. Kings in NYC. The show was absolutely stunning. Although many of the songs Love sings are from the 1960’s, she makes them sound brand new. I cannot say enough nice things about Love. She is beautiful inside and out. I am truly grateful for this experience. I even bought a new Christmas sweater for the occasion.

1. Listening to Paula Cole’s Ballads, Interviewing Paula Cole, Meeting Paula Cole

We all know Paula Cole from her smash hits “I Don’t Want to Wait” and “Where Have All The Cowboys Gone,” but that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Cole’s music. As I was browsing new releases on Spotify back in August I found Cole’s newest album Ballads. This album literally changed how I listen to music. Cole’s voice completely overtakes every track, resulting in a jazz masterpiece. She intertwines classic jazz songs with songs you would never include on a standard jazz album (“The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” “Ode to Billy Joe”). After bingeing this album for weeks I wrote a review with my rawest thoughts, but I knew there was no way I did the album justice.

To my surprise, Cole enjoyed my article and even retweeted it. Weeks later, her team sent out an email over her upcoming tour dates with praises for the album and there was a quote from Vinyl Culture. I was ecstatic! Then I had an idea. I decided I would take a chance and send her management an email and ask for an interview. I knew there was no way a Grammy Award-winning, Lilith Fair legend would ever answer my request. Again, to my surprise, Ms. Cole obliged. Although I wouldn’t call it an interview, it was a conversation. Read our conversation here

Then it came time for her show at City Winery in NYC. Again I had a meet and greet pass. I was nervous to meet Cole. By this time I had listened to every album she had released and had an even deeper understanding of her music. I was last in line and as I walked around the corner and said “Hi! I’m Gabe Crawford,” she instantly knew who I was. We chatted like old friends, but I can’t tell you anything we talked about. I was completely in awe. I had never met anybody as talented as Cole. We all have those moments in our lives, the ones we can’t describe, and this was one of those. This whole experience was divine and one I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Well with that being said, there isn’t much more to be said. I was truly blessed with amazing discoveries and experiences in 2017. Thank you to everybody who had a hand in making this list happen.

Honorable Mentions:

Music Review: A New Kimberley Locke Christmas Playlist

Live Music: Diana Ross- It’s Her House

New Music Review: Bond Villain – Simply Innovative

PLAYLIST: From the Soul, December 3, 2017

As I am moving into my new “normal,” I have found my music choices all over the spectrum. I cannot switch the vinyl quick enough. This is not anything new though, I’m always all over the radar, but I thought it would be interesting to go over some of these songs. I wanted to think about why I’m listening to them. Maybe that can give me a clue of where I am in life and you can always judge somebody by the record collection or playlist, right?

“Proud Mary” –Tina Turner

Now I cannot completely verify this research, but I once read that “Proud Mary” doesn’t necessarily have a meaning. When John Fogerty wrote this song, he put together a bunch of different riffs and verses he had written. For me, this song makes complete sense, especially in my life now!

I really did just leave a steady career track to pursue a passion of mine. Right now I’m just rollin,’ and life has been rough, but in the end, everything’s nice and easy.

                                                         Tina Turner Twitter   Tina Turner Facebook   Tina Turner Instagram

“Mary Did You Know” –Kimberley Locke

Honestly, I have never really been into Christmas music. I’ve had a few favorites over the years, but I’ve never been elated to hear that first Christmas tune at Wal-Mart in July. I’m not a scrooge, just not overly festive. One of my favorite Christmas songs is “Mary Did You Know?” I love the song’s perspective. I’ve been looking for a simple version with a powerhouse vocal that brought justice to the lyrics. Kimberley Locke’s version does just that and I’m hooked.

Kimberley Locke Twitter   Kimberley Locke Facebook   Kimberley Locke Instagram

“Roxanne” –The Police 

I cannot really explain why I am listening to this song. It popped into my head the other day and has been in the back ever since. I’ve been trying to figure out a few songs that I could start practicing myself that were outside the “piano” realm, but one that still echoed jazz sentiments. This song has so many great versions out there along those lines, but nothing beats the original.

Sting Twitter   Sting Facebook   Sting Instagram

“Purple Rain” –Prince

I’m starting to see an 80’s theme, but this is where it’s going to end. Lately I have been listening to music from Prince’s entire career catalog. “Purple Rain” is such a classic though. I can’t hear it once and not go on a binge listen for a few days….or weeks.

Prince Twitter   Prince Facebook   Prince Instagram

“Lady Blue” –Griffin Anthony

I discovered Griffin Anthony on Twitter a few months ago. Once I heard his album The Making of A Man, I was hooked to his vocal’s true country tones and soulful foundation. “Lady Blue” is one of my favorite tracks off of the album due to it’s pure honesty. You can sense both hope, frustration, and heartbreak woven in it’s lyrics. Expect a full review soon. If anybody belongs on vinyl it’s Anthony.

Griffin Anthony Twitter   Griffin Anthony Facebook   Griffin Anthony Instagram

“New York” –St. Vincent

When I find myself in a “rut,” where I keep listening to the same artists and songs consistently, I force myself to try something new. I am a member of Vinyl Me, Please, and their album of the month was St. Vincent’s MASSEDUCTION. Read my full review of her album here. St. Vincent is innovative in both the sound of her music and writing. I love how so many of her songs change “attitude” throughout the song yet they always have a reigning theme.

St. Vincent Twitter   St. Vincent Facebook   St. Vincent Instagram

“River” –Idina Menzel

Here is another one of favorite Christmas songs. I have been a fan of Idina Menzel for many years now, so naturally I did buy her Christmas album a few years back. Although this is officially Joni Mitchell’s classic, I fell in love with Menzel’s version. It was just what I needed that year and it has remained a staple in my winter playlist since. I believe Barnes and Noble is featuring this on limited edition vinyl…..

Idina Menzel Twitter   Idina Menzel Facebook   Idina Menzel Instagram

“Good to You” –Jonny P 

Songs that have old school vibes with a modern twist always catch my ear. I found recently this one recently. My friend was talking about Jonny P and I found his music video on Vevo. I definitely plan to check out more of his music this week.

Jonny P Twitter   Johnny P Facebook   Johnny P Instagram

“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” –Darlene Love

Rolling Stone said it best when they declared that Darlene Love is one of the greatest singers of all time. I couldn’t agree more. In recent years, she is finally getting some of the well deserved credit and respect she truly deserves. This song will always remain a staple in Love’s career and it has cemented itself as a holiday classic. Love performed this song every year on David Letterman since 1986. Here is her first performance of her classic.

   Darlene Love Facebook

“Perfect” –Ed Sheeran and Beyoncé

Anything featuring Beyoncé will always get my attention. Yes, I am an unashamed member of the Bey Hive. Do not talk bad about her majesty in my presence. With that being said, I’m not 100% into this song. Ed Sheeran’s music has never really crossed my path, but this may have opened the door a tad. I am listening to this repeatedly trying to get fully into it. I’ll keep you posted.

Ed Sheeran: Ed Sheeran Twitter   Ed Sheeran Facebook   Ed Sheeran Instagram

Beyoncé: Beyonce Twitter   Beyonce Facebook   Beyonce Instagram

So what does my playlist say about me? I’m not sure exactly what it says  or where I’m at in life, but in the end it’s exactly where I need to be. Music is what you have when words are not adequate. Vinyl is my medium. What you listen too is what speaks to your soul. Where does that leave me?

Who the heck knows, but I’m enjoying the journey…

                                                           Gabe Crawford Twitter   Gabe Crawford Instagram

MUSIC REVIEW: Cher, The Sonny Side of Cher

Anybody that knows me or has just steadily kept up with my blog knows that I am unapologetic Cher fan. I have nearly all her albums, read numerous books on this legend, and I buy concert tickets whenever she performs. Naturally, I would have to write about her for Women’s History Month.

My Copy of The Sonny Side of CherTonight, for a little nostalgia, I decided to revisit The Sonny Side of Cher. This album is important to understanding Cher’s career trajectory and how she became the artist she is today. I truly believe she is one of the best, yet underrated, vocalists of our time.

The Sonny Side of Cher opens with Cher’s biggest solo hit to that time “Bang, Bang.” This Sonny penned tune is a tale of two lovers explained as children. I love this composition. I love the exotic feel this song brings. It sounds a bit country at times, it is definitely pop, it takes advantage of 60’s folk, and there is a little Scottish flare for fun. It’s easy to see how this song claimed the number 2 spot on the Billboard Hot 100.

“Elusive Butterfly” and “The Girl From Ipanema” are among Cher fan’s favorites from this era in her career, but the songs that really take the cake for this album are “Old Man River” and “Like A Rolling Stone,” a Bob Dylan cover.

“Old Man River” comes in at number 1 on this album for me, right behind “Bang Bang.” When I hear Cher sings this song I just picture tears streaming out of some bodies deeply wounded eyes. I literally feel I can reach into this song and drench myself in emotion.

If you have any interest in Cher’s career or the culture of the 60’s, this album is essential. As a bonus, this record is sprinkled with Phil Spector’s fingerprints as Sonny Bono, once Spector’s employee, produces the full album. This is pre “glam” Cher, but post “I Got You Babe” Cher. This small era in her career was a gem in her soon to be legendary status.

Key Tracks: “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down),” “Elusive Butterfly,” “The Girl From Ipanema”

Deep Cuts: “Old Man River,” “Like a Rolling Stone,” “Where Do you Go”

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