Caroline Herring: Golden Apples of the Sun (Ode)

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Caroline Herring: The Great Unknown
Caroline Herring: Golden Apples of the Sun (Ode)

The previous album by this Atlanta-based singer-songwriter, Lantana of last year, was a revelation: her crystalline vocals conjured up the purity of Joan Baez but her sometimes dark subject matter took her into that emotionally unsettling area where the likes of Gillian Welch, Lucinda Williams and Eilen Jewell sometimes set up shop.

The contrast between Herring’s delicate clarity and a sympathetic song from the perspective of Susan Smith -- the woman who, in 94, let her Mazda roll into a lake and so drown her two children sleeping in the back -- was just downright chilly.

Herring writes evocative, allusive lyrics, or has characters and narratives which are sketched in with a few bare phrases: “”I’m just a white girl from a segregated town”, “Oh, to walk beside an honourable man, sometimes I just do the best I can”, “Somebody light a candle, light my way . ..”

Here she adapts poems by Yeats and Pablo Neruda; makes over Cyndi Lauper’ True Colours into a melancholy country ballad, turns the old blues song See See Rider into a back-porch meditation with banjo and e-bow (from David Goodrich), and respectfully covers Joni Mitchell’s Cactus Tree.

Herring recorded this live and acoustic, and it sounds like she’s in your living room singing songs of emotional depth and first-person stories of people whose lives are veiled in sadness and reflection.

Deep and engrossing.

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