Caitlin Rose does country music the old-fashioned way, rightfully earning comparisons to artists like Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn. Her authentic Americana style, unfairly marginalized into the alt-country category, is untouched by the cliché-laden, factory-produced sound that prevails in contemporary mainstream country music. On sophomore album ‘The Stand-In’, Rose blends folk, gospel, and blues with simple, plain-spoken lyrics and a singing voice that alternates between sweet and sultry without becoming overly twangy.
Throughout the album, Rose’s singing switches easily from sweet softness to supple throatiness, depending upon the emotion of the moment. Her voice does lack weight at the bottom of her register, which occasionally leaves her sounding whiny instead of weary. The higher part of the voice, however, is beautiful at both ends of the dynamic spectrum, and Rose takes full advantage of that ability.
As a whole, ‘The Stand-In’ calls to mind images of a smoky bar at last call, when only the hardcore drinkers and the lonely hearts are left to pair off or fend for themselves. Opening track ‘No One to Call’ (stream below) has a drunkenly stumbling rhythmic figure at the end of its chorus. ‘Pink Champagne’ is a charmingly woozy, unabashedly sentimental two-step, which I could easily hear playing from a jukebox on a nearly-empty dance floor. The album’s swan song ‘Old Numbers’ is another allusion to drunk-dialling, but its sultry jazz trumpet and slippery guitar solo are more suggestive of old pay phones than modern mobiles.
Close attention to the seemingly straightforward lyrics yields a broad spectrum of dark emotion. First single ‘I Was Cruel’ (live version below) puts a masochistic twist on the typical lovelorn break-up song. Its ending, sung in a beautiful clear tone, takes a slight detour in perspective: “Peace of mind, honey, I’ll treat you kind, sometimes. / I’m a selfish man with my head in my hands, and I’m crying for you.” In ‘Dallas’, Rose cuts her sweet singing with edgy lyrics, “let’s move this fucking jet, I have to go, despite all sleet and snow”. (Also worth noting here are classic country references to a “portrait in velvet” and a “3-night run at The Palace.”) The chorus of ‘When I’m Gone’ is one of the album’s most memorable lyrics: “Come on, you can sleep when I’m gone, I was lying when I said there’d be plenty of time.”
‘Everywhere I Go’ is something of an outlier on the album. With its driving rhythm section and clear keyboard quality, it could easily fit on a more pop-oriented record, if not for the ever-present slide guitar. ‘Menagerie’, an upbeat four-to-the-floor number, has a strident guitar riff and the equally strident lyrics, “I’m gonna dance over broken glass and destroy all of these beautiful things.”
Overall, ‘The Stand-In’ doesn’t stray far from the formula that worked so well for Rose on debut album ‘Own Side Now’. Lyrical depth, musical variety, and emotional authenticity once again balance Rose’s silvery singing and clever charm. Mainstream country ingénues could certainly take a lesson or two from this talented singer.
‘The Stand-In’, Caitlin Rose’s second album, is out today on Names Records. She starts a UK tour tonight at Brighton Haunt; the details of the tour are below. After that she will return to America for SXSW 2013, where she will showcase at Club De Ville on Friday 15 March at 8:00 PM, then go out on a tour of the East Coast and Midwest.
Monday 25th February 2013 – Brighton Haunt
Tuesday 26th February 2013 – Bristol Fleece
Wednesday 27th February 2013 – London Dingwalls (sold out)
Thursday 28th February 2013 – Leeds Brudenell Social Club
Friday 1st March 2013 – Manchester Ruby Lounge
Saturday 2nd March 2013 – Glasgow CCA
Sunday 3rd March 2013 – London Brixton Windmill
Monday 4th March 2013 – London Rough Trade East