Christmas songs are as big a part of the season as crowded shopping malls and spiked eggnog, but there are only so many times you can hear “Jingle Bells” and “Deck the Halls” without wanting to wretch just a little. Here are some suggestions for compiling a Yuletide playlist that perhaps isn’t quite so musty. Much of the music can be purchased or ordered locally at Guestroom Records, Size Records and the like.
Carter Sampson’s voice and subject matter are too sweet to get lumped in
with those rough ’n’ tumble Red Dirt boys, but instrumentally, her
“Mockingbird Sing” isn’t far off.
The album’s 12 tunes brim with crystal-clear, country guitars celebrating all the joys of rural life — and not necessarily just the whiskey-related ones.
It’s a dusty gem of an Okie-born album (Sampson’s now based in Fayetteville, Ark.), spiked with the occasional blast of organ and glimmering pedal steel from Chris Moore.
Wanda Jackson and Woody Guthrie get a shout-out in Sampson’s fantasy track, “Queen of Oklahoma,” where she’s got a “Dust Bowl throne” and “the wavin’ wheat’s always waving at me.” It’s charming and, most importantly, believable. With her voice winsome and earnest, it’s a great relief to the sassy, affirmative, Miranda Lambert-with-a-shotgun songs that female country singers currently feel pressured to write.
The record chugs to a climax on the fifth track, “Jesse James,” wherein Sampson belts the title lyric more whip-like and intense than the pastoral subject matter would suggest. Here, she’s definitely straddling between country and modern rock, which is pretty impressive considering the cat-lady eyeglass frames she’s wearing on the disc’s back cover.
“Mockingbird Sing” is out now in physical and digital formats. Sampson performs at a free show Saturday at JJ’s Alley, 212 E. Sheridan. For more information, call 605-4543. —Matt Carney