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by: Caroline Herring

Album Artwork

Caroline Herring
Signature Sounds SIG-2010

Caroline Herring knows exactly who she is, though her view of her world shifts like dunes in a windstorm. Wife, mother, musician, philosopher and poet live inside her, and probably a handful of other people as well, and they all surface here in some amazing songs of life and living. Like the mountain and swamp poets of the past, she weaves the past with the present until the difference disappears, something few of today's singer/songwriters can do without being obvious.

Tiptoeing through various genres such as folk, bluegrass and country (the real country and not the mass-produced), she lays out a view which, while Southern, is universal. God knows where the idea of Gothic South started, but it is here in every sense, thanks in no small part to Mississippi roots and a little on the job training in Austin. Herring may seem subtle in her use of the Southern Mystique, but such is her ability with the lyric. Themes range from the tragedy surrounding Susan Smith (“Paper Gown”) to the pure wonder of childhood only a mother can see (“Lover Girl”) to the anonymity of life after high school (“Heartache Tonight”) to a look back to a perfect moment (“Midnight On the Water”), a beautiful rendition of an old Texas fiddle tune recorded here vocally, in partial tribute to colleague Kate Wolf.

While the themes flow smoothly from song to song, it is the music which drives them home. Like Adrienne Young and Little Sadie on “The Art of Virtue”, Herring and crew ride the roots with deft touch, catching the feel and sound as “Lantana” coasts from front to back. Sometimes more early Eagles-like (and even better, channeling Chris Berardo and the Desberardos, who have that early '70s country sound down), sometimes more folk and sometimes sliding toward bluegrass, they are of the same soul. The credit goes to Herring, whose performance and songwriting is topnotch, and producer Rich Brotherton, whose knob-twisting skills rise to the challenge here, as does his performance on a variety of instruments.

Like the flower for which it is named, “Lantana” is more than it seems. When the lantana flowers, butterflies swarm. It is magic, simple as that.

Frank Gutch Jr

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