Caroline Herring, |
(Blue Corn, 2001)
Twilight is in fact the dawn of this talented singer-songwriter's recording career. Caroline Herring's Mississippi roots feature prominently in her lyrics, her style is a blend of country and folk, and her voice is rich and mellow, strong and confident. She plays guitar and is ably accompanied by a talented band featuring Peter Rowan on guitar and mandola, Billy and Bryn Bright on mandolin and mandola, acoustic bass and cello, Richard Bowden on fiddle, and producer John Inmon on percussion and electric guitar. Other musicians contribute more hands on mandolins, dobros, fiddles, percussion, pedal steel and drums, melding a full warm backing suitable for Caroline's voice and lyrics.
Aged 32, she writes with a rounded maturity to present her viewpoint of life in the south. "Mississippi Snow" (referring to the fields of cotton) opens the album by relating the conflicting feelings experienced by a girl on escaping the expected life there, reminiscing about what she misses, yet not willing to return. "Ringside Rodeo" is an up-front viewpoint of someone's life: "She wears her cross like a tattoo/she needs identity just like you ... don't go looking for one to fall/you know she fell a long time ago/watch her riding, rising high/at the ringside rodeo." "The Devil Made a Mess Out of You," a countrified waltz in the mould of Patsy Cline, is a bittersweet love song: "What's that spell/makes us want to ride into Hell/this much is true/he made a mess of me, too." Caroline wrote it with a Hank Williams style in mind.
"Wise Woman" is a strong song with an uplifting rhythm, an anthem for all practical women making the best of a hard life and seizing happiness when they can, who "danced to the fiddle on a Saturday night/chopped the cotton before daylight/sun don't go down on a poor man's woes/my love if you don't meet the dawn/I promise you I'll carry on/singing 'Precious Memories' as I plant along the rows." Caroline once again draws on her own experience in "Learning to Drive," as "our sweet potato cotton queen/looks ahead when the whistles blow/a lady knows when it's time to go ... a speck surrounded by soybean fields/in a land of red clay wheels ... but now she's all packed up in parceled pillars/she's driving a U-Haul across the Mississippi River/lanterns on the levee and a fist full of cotton/old times there will not be forgotten."
"Carolina Moon" returns to a country feel, a light and lively tune with happy lovers in the lyrics. Caroline's voice has depth and vibrancy, without the overused vibrato so beloved of country singers; she is well able to convey pathos or sympathy without this particular device. "Standing in the Water" is her take on the dichotomy of the South -- its natural beauty and its ugly history. "In the land of the crazies/gentlemen and ladies/I was born ... Standing in the water/my dress is soiled and seen/goodnight cottonlandia/get your ghosts off of me." The closing "The Wreck on the Highway" is the only song not penned by Caroline, but it's familiar to her from growing up listening to her father and grandfather sing it, so its inclusion on her first album, so redolent of her Mississippi home, is natural enough -- though a more uplifting finale would have been nice.
This is an outstanding debut album from a talented and promising singer-songwriter who is already taking center stage in her area. Kudos to those who encouraged her to concentrate on her singing and songwriting -- such a lovely voice should definitely be heard!