Caroline Herring, Lantana (Signature)

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Caroline Herring: Paper Gown
Caroline Herring, Lantana (Signature)

To my embarrassment I admit to never having heard of this alt.country singer-songwriter, now onto (I think) her third album.

Apparently she won the best new artist award at Austin's South X Southwest Festival in 2002 and I imagine she has picked a few awards and many fans since. She's won me with this one, her pure Baez-like vocals, the crisp and clear arrangements for pedal steel, fiddle and viola, banjo, upright bass and so on.

And the clarity of her Southern-framed songwriting in which she writes about small town life and dreams, that woman Susan Smith who drowned her children in the lake (the moving Paper Gown), matters of faith and a woman's lot in this life.

She keeps close to musical traditions (hints of old time folk, blues and bluegrass, the treatment of All The Pretty Horses) but brings a sense of emotional engagement to everything. Some may find this a little smooth at the edges, and those who know her work will doubtless say some previous album was better (it's a common enough critic's position), but Herring is a powerfully intelligent songwriter and delivers these 10 songs with confidence and accomplishment.

Very persuasive, deep and sometimes dark, and utterly listenable. Real interesting. You'll be won.

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