Caroline Herring – Wellspring
Caroline Herring makes timeless folk music that would feel at home in an earlier century, but with poignant anachronisms that make it relevant today. Her writing recalls Nanci Griffith and her voice is similar to Lucinda Williams’, with less twang and drawl. The songs revolve around an acoustic guitar, with quiet drums here, an accordion there, and the occasional subtle steel guitar or fiddle.
“Mortified”, with a memorable sing-along chorus, is the catchiest song on Wellspring, the follow-up to Herring’s 2001 debut Twilight. Herring’s recent marriage seems to have provided artistic fodder as “Magnolia” is her best and most vulnerable love song. “Texas Two Step” is a slow, swinging country song that proves Texas is still home for Herring, though she has since left Austin for Washington, D.C.
Her imagery, however, evokes locales as diverse as Colorado, Tacoma, and Las Vegas. On “MGM Grand”, Herring somehow turns a Southwest Airlines flight to Vegas into an age-old tale of living and leaving. “Mistress” is a song about slavery that begins on an auction block in Kentucky and ends under a golf course in East Texas, putting Herring’s master’s degree in southern studies from Ole Miss to good use. These songs are personal, even if they aren’t all told in the first-person.
Herring is guided by the production of Rich Brotherton, who is quickly becoming the man with the Midas touch (other recent credits include discs by Robert Earl Keen and Rodney Hayden). The result is a graceful mix of songs about marriage, love and loneliness that lives up to the acclaim of Herring’s debut. Brotherton also plays a variety of instruments, including Mexican mandola and glass harmonica. Kelly Willis adds vocals on the graceful “Jewels”, and a host of other fine musicians chip in to make Wellspring a beautiful album.