Carter Sampson - Gold
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Gold (Horton, 2023)

Carter Sampson

Reviewed by Jim Hynes

Carter Sampson, dubbed "The Queen of Oklahoma," returns for "Gold," her seventh full-length, essentially a collaborative effort with her longtime musical partner, multi-instrumentalist Kyle Reid, who also engineered, mixed and co-produced. The first five songs were recorded in her living room, and the back half of the album was done resourcefully during the pandemic with a recording studio in his house with wires and cables running to a backyard studio. Aside from a fiddle track from Lane Hawkins and a couple with upright bassist Johnny Carlton, the sounds are all from Sampson and Reid.

The title track begins the 10-song set, a song written after a good cry with her mom who lent a sympathetic ear. In "Home," written during some down time in the Netherlands, Sampson tries to find balance between the freedom of a musician on the road and a safe harbor – "I'm not sure where my heart is/But I'm starting to find my way home" to the strains of Reid's weeping pedal steel. She exudes far more confidence in the quest to be a full-time musician in "Can't Stop Me Now," the attitude she brought to a full-on touring schedule of 220 dates a year pre-pandemic.

She regales us with a witty ode to love in the relatable way of sending her lover a "Drunk Text" while "yippie yi yo" speaks to resilience and a cowgirl's need to jump back on the proverbial pony. The acoustic picked "Today Is Mine" has her savoring her good mood that she prefers goes undisturbed. She cleverly draws parallels between the baseball team that almost won and a relationship that had good possibilities only to fail in the end in the closing "There's Always Next Year."

Yet arguably, as good as that one is, the best two songs are those that speak to her Oklahoma heritage – the disorienting "Black Blizzard," about the state's partly ugly history and the effects of the Dust Bowl and "Fingers to the Bone," mostly about her hard-scrabbled growing up and her dad, who worked until he died. Sampson sings from the heart. Nothing is sugar coated. She's as real as her red dirt roots or the red cowboy boots that she proudly wears.

CDs by Carter Sampson

Gold, 2023

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