april 2008

Caroline Herring
Signature Sounds

At time poignant, at times melancholic, always tender and introspective, Caroline Herring’s beautifully realized Lantana, an album length meditation on the metaphysics of self-realization and the real world of parenting, growing and growing up, is a record that burrows discreetly into the soul and knocks around in there demanding more than easy answers to big questions about survival. With a distinctly southern tinge in the gentle, largely acoustic folk-country arrangements framing Herring’s literate excursions into the past and the present, Lantana boldly identifies the artist in the ethereal, blues-tinged album opener “Stone Cold World” as a “selfish girl in a selfish world” who can’t accept what might be transforming love, even mocking her suitor’s aspirations, saying, “Pioneers must be big boys/Especially you…” But as the album progresses, something happens, as Herring exults in the spiritually exalted experience of being “a mother and a lover/And a sister and a daughter” in the lilting hymn that is “Lay My Burden Down,” and later offering a blessing to a suddenly grown daughter in the quiet folk ballad, “Lover Girl,” a lightly fingerpicked guitar supporting Herring’s delicate, upper register whispers as she beseeches the youngster to “put your little hands together/and pray for your mama.” Everyone’s on shaky ground in the end, none more so than the tortured Susan Smith, infamous for having impassively drowned her children in a car. In a classically styled murder ballad, “Paper Gown,” though, Herring finds some light, just a little, in examining the arc of Smith’s life (“Long ago I used to be/A little girl on my daddy’s knee”), neither condemning nor excusing, but seeking to understand the destructive demons driving Smith, which Herring recognizes as being so close to the surface, hers and ours. And therein lies a tale.—David McGee


Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (www.johnmendelsohn.com)
Website Design: Kieran McGee (www.kieranmcgee.com)
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY; www.flickr.com/audreyharrod), Alicia Zappier (New York)
E-mail: thebluegrassspecial@gmail.com
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024