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Woody Guthrie's hometown hosts annual folk festival



Samantha Crain is a lot younger than many fans of American folk music, but one would never know it from the way she sings.


Her voice is powerful in its fragility, a raw-roots throwback to singer/survivors who had a story to share and the weathered voice to narrate it.

Critics are already comparing the Shawnee native to June Carter and Judy Garland, and crowds have welcomed the 21-year-old and her band, The Midnight Shivers, back for a second appearance at the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival in Okemah.

Crain joins dozens of other singers, songwriters and performers for the 11th annual event, which starts today and runs through Sunday on stages throughout folk legend Guthrie's hometown.

The well-known festival is testament to the timelessness of Guthrie's spirit, and has become a five-day celebration led by folk fans and performers inspired by the songwriter's life, struggle and legacy. Seasoned folk favorites Ellis Paul, Jimmy LaFave, Kevin Welch and Joel Rafael are among the festival's founding performers, and will each take the stage again this year.

Seattle singer/songwriter Judy Collins will perform at 10:30 p.m. Saturday on the "Pastures of Plenty" stage after hour-long sets by Rafael, Paul, LaFave and local Americana trio Red Dirt Rangers.

Crain, who will perform with The Midnight Shivers at 2 p.m. Friday on the Brickstreet Stage, said she is excited to be part of the close-knit festival "family."

Crain cited "Baltimore to Washington" as an influence on her songwriting style " a "less traditional" Guthrie song that has become a regular van companion for the singer and band as they tour.

She was introduced to folk music by her dad, but Crain said she quickly moved from more mellow tunes by Simon & Garfunkel, The Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul & Mary to the brasher spectrum of roots music led by Guthrie and Bob Dylan.

Crain said she and the Shivers have already written many of the songs for a new album, which she hopes to start recording in September. The yet-to-be-named disc is largely "inspired by nature," she said, adding that she wrote many of the songs during devastating ice storms that swept the state this past winter.

"There are lots of spiritual references, but it's not religious," she said. "It's about the world around us. The damage (of the storms) and the renewal of nature and everything that comes with that.""Joe Wertz

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