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For Samantha Crain, 'Making New Traditions' Is A Mode Of Survival

Samantha Crain spoke with NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro about her latest album, <em></em><em>You Had Me At Goodbye.</em>
Dakota Lewallen
Courtesy of the artist
Samantha Crain spoke with NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro about her latest album, You Had Me At Goodbye.

Samantha Crain's connection to her home state of Oklahoma runs deep and forms the foundation of her new album, You Had Me At Goodbye. Though the record as a whole is more pop-oriented than her previous releases, her folk roots show in her take on a song linked to fellow Oklahoman Woody Guthrie, "When The Roses Bloom Again."

"Here in Oklahoma — Woody Guthrie being kind of a hero of sorts — there's always these Woody Guthrie tribute nights," Crain says. "And me being a sort of younger artist, everyone else has already taken the quintessential Woody Guthrie songs to perform at those nights. ... So I had to do some digging."

Guthrie didn't actually write "When The Roses Bloom Again," but he did write the lyrics down in his journal, Crain says.

"So even though it's not technically a Woody Guthrie song, I feel like it captures the spirit," she says. "And he had those lyrics in his journal for a reason. I've just always loved the song. I thought it was kind of timeless."

But Guthrie's influence is only one element that grounds Crain's music. She's also a member of the Choctaw Nation and sings in the Choctaw language throughout You Had Me At Goodbye, such as in the song "Red Sky, Blue Mountain."

"I've been having a lot of conversations over the past few years about going into survival mode when it comes to keeping our Native traditions alive," she says. "I think that the conclusion that I've come to is how important it is to be making new traditions within our tribes."

That's especially important, she says, because many traditional Choctaw songs have been lost over time.

"Now, I think what we have the majority of are just Christian hymns sung in Choctaw," she says. "So I really feel like in order to keep the language alive we need to be, as Choctaws, making more music that speaks to what's important to us, and making our new traditional songs."

Hear Crain's conversation with NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro and more of her music at the audio link.

Web producer Jake Witz and web editor Rachel Horn contributed to this story.

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Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.