(Review written by Hannah of rockmycommute.com)
When you check out Carter Sampson’s Bandcamp page, you’ll notice that Thirty Three is the “fourth independent studio release” for Carter, and her first solo acoustic EP. Right from the beginning, you can tell this album is more country (in style) than most of the neo-folk/indie pieces I have been reviewing for ETTG so far. Carter’s voice on this EP is similar to Kimberly Perry, the lead singer of The Band Perry. The album makes an honest and direct opening with the song “I Am Yours” – an upbeat, simple and earthy introduction to Carter’s style.
You will enjoy the album more if you remember that this is all solo acoustic work – stop looking for the fancy stuff and just enjoy this good quality musicianship. Some of the songs would possibly be more exciting and catchy if jazzed up with more backing vocals, diverse instrumentation, and some rockin’ drums and bassline. However, the no-nonsense beauty of each track allows Carter to really demonstrate her craft as a writer and a singer.
On the 2nd track – “See the Devil Run” – she creates a sound very similar to Sheryl Crow on her more countrified pieces. This song is slower than the first, really highlighting Carter’s confident voice and good solid guitar. The next track had such a similar tempo and style as the previous song that initially I struggled to see much of a contrast. But after a few listens, I realized that “Highway Rider” is actually quite catchy (in a mellow, slow way), and has a recognizable chorus – you will be singing along to in no time to the easy-to-pick up lyrics like “time is money, and I’ve got nothing but time”.
“Twilight” is another slow song, with an intriguing chord tension that eases into a pleasantly resolved melody. The album ends on a philosophical note with “Wild Bird”, featuring plenty of good country-style strumming and the wildest, most raw vocals yet, supporting woeful and contemplative lyrics. And that’s all, folks – just 5 tracks on the EP. So short and sweet in fact, that I found myself waiting to learn more about Carter Sampson.
I tried to find some of Carter’s previous releases to see how this new EP compared to her earlier work, and I’m so glad I did. I found that Thirty Three is not just a demo for an emerging singer-songwriter, but rather a special treasure for fans of an already well-established artist, sitting on three other amazing studio albums. Fly Over The Moon (2004) is still a little stripped down, but it is energetic and upbeat, with a youthful, Ani DiFranco appeal. Good for the Meantime (2008) is one excellent song after another, and reminds me of some of the great albums by Nashville’s own Mindy Smith. And most recently, Mockingbird Sing (2011) presents a full-blown production of a more mature Carter, with rocking electric guitars and lots of energy that I would compare to the Indigo Girls, among the other female artists I have already mentioned.
Carter is not setting out to re-invent the wheel with this release, or create a new genre, or to get you to say “wow, that’s really something different”. But if you already like that new Nashville sound with a little traditional country, you will appreciate adding her new release to your rotation. If you are already a fan of Carter’s other albums, you should be excited to add this little EP to your collection. Her voice is perfect for this kind of elemental music, and the songs are solid – not corny, cliché or pretentious at all. As the weather gets warmer, and we are drawn more to the outdoors and to the simple things in life, it will be the perfect time to check out Thirty Three. Enjoy!