Sporting four stages, across three different venues, and 20 artists, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that I wouldstumble upon impeccable talent previously unbeknown to me at the Americana Fest UK Showcase event. Nevertheless, I found myself having to pick my jaw up from the floor after Carter Sampson’s intimate set on the Paper Dress Vintage stage.
Before I detail the journey Okie-born Carter took us through, however, I need to make a confession. Locating the place to collect my wristband when arriving upon Hackney Central wasn’t the most straightforward of endeavours, and when I got there, the queue was of a healthy size – Carter was the opening act of the evening, so no wonder that others were running on the same timings as me. Well, much to my disappointment, it meant I missed the first few tracks – sorry for not being able to share my view on these!
What I can tell you though is that the 4 songs I did hear served as an excellent introduction to an artist I have since had on replay on Spotify. The first song I heard was Highway Rider, a track off Carter’s latest album released last year. It’s spellbinding and haunting, and if Carter hadn’t cut it herself, the track would have been perfect for Miranda Lambert’s The Weight of these Wings album. I am not exaggerating the slightest – and it’s not just that the title is similar to Highway Vagabond (the tracks couldn’t actually be more different) Try this clever lyric as a taster: Home is where the heart is/ain’t that a shame/I can’t seem to keep my heart in the same place.
The song that followed – the new album title track Wilder Side – tugged at the same heartstrings. We keep on the topic of life on the road but in a more up-beat, tap your foot and nod you head, 70s country kind of way. Hearing this song did what music does best – it was like being transported out of London and into the passenger seat of an old chevy watching Carter humming along to the radio: And I’m driving all night just to be alone/Sweet Baby Jane singing on the radio.
At this point self-penned (but with the talent to back it) Queen of Oklahoma did what I have heard many US artists do in my time of concert-going – she thanked us. Thanked us for listening and being so quiet. For being a much better crowd than so many in the States. I must admit that it shocks for me and saddens me every time to imagine sets from great and hard-working artists being talked through and sometimes over. And Carter is definitely one of these great and hard-working artists – she has a rep for averaging 220 gigs annually!
We move on to my absolute highlight of the set, and much to my disappointment (and no doubt to yours), this was a yet to be recorded song. It was based on the tale of Rattlesnake Kate from 1920s Colorado, who got her name from a day when she fought off and killed 140 rattlesnakes – how bad ass is that. The song is aptly called Rattlesnake Kate and is my favourite kind of country song. It’s moody, melodic and the story-telling is sensational. I can’t recommend the song enough, and as there seemed little prospect of the song to be recorded any time soon, I’ll take the liberty to share a link to a previous live performance of this song. It’s not to be missed!
The final song of the set was called Take Me Home with You. A smooth, candid and tender ballad that left an impression. I’m always mesmerised when an artist manages to effectively make a one night stand sound romantic, and in this case Carter succeeds, because every word, every description aches of loneliness and longing. Carter’s delivery made me feel every word and at the end I too wanted someone to: Wrap me up in your arms/Keep me safe till the morning comes around.
All in all, Carter’s short set was excellent. Excellent as a stand-alone gig, and even better as a start to the Americana Fest Showcase. My only grumble was that it wasn’t longer (and that I missed the start)! I hope Carter will be back to play in the UK again, as I really do believe she would amass many fans over here with some more exposure, and also selfishly because I really enjoyed it this time!
Check out more of Carter Sampson’s music and where she’ll be next here: https://cartersampson.bandcamp.com/.
Photo credit: @ClubhouseUK
Review written by Nathalie Larsen