I love an ‘oh, what was that’ moment. The radio’s on and you’re listening without really fully absorbing what’s going on then, the ears prick up, the brain engages and suddenly there’s something important happening. A piece of music you need to hear, need to have is playing and all of those little tingly receptors which ping around whenever we’re exposed to pleasurable things leap into action. The volume is frantically pushed up and, if you’re like me, you run across to the radio, needlessly positioning your ear near to the speakers, ready to receive that crucial information. A track from the fine new record by Caitlin Rose, ‘Own Sides Now’, had that very impact upon me earlier this week and I wasn’t wrong.
I reckon you could be sold on this album by hearing only one tune, the nearest thing to a title track, ‘Own Side’. Lyrically, it aches: “Who’s gonna take me home, ‘cos I don’t want to go it alone, who’s gonna want me when I’m just somewhere you’ve been?” Musically it aches too, a testament to the quite superb band Rose has assembled around her, each and every musician becalmed and respectful towards the material, responding to each song’s specific needs like a skilled surgeon. ‘For The Rabbits’ is an excellent showcase for her compelling vocal, ideally suited to squeezing every ounce of emotion out of the numerous narratives found across this hugely impressive record. The crescendo around the four minute mark is quite beautiful and the sort of thing that causes you to interrupt the flow of the record just so you can hear it again. Not that you would want to wait too long in case you didn’t get around to the musically buoyant and metaphorically sound ‘Shanghai Cigarettes’.
Some of the more wistful, straight country songs like ‘New York’ bring to mind the greats, naturally enough, but also return attentions to the marvellous recent Mountain Man album, ‘Made The Harbor’. While the latter record is far more spacious and minimalist, those vocal similarities would suggest that if you like one, you’ll like the other and as I’m rather fond of ‘Made The Harbor’, forgive me for crow-barring this in. Do try it, if you haven’t yet though.
Then there’s the mellifluous joys of ‘Spare Me (Fetzer’s Blues)’ which gallops along with Rose’s vocal gliding endearingly across the stop and ‘Things Change’, which is as sombre and rumbling as you might imagine based on the title. There is a delicious, sonorous malevolence running underneath at times which keeps things on edge and seems entirely in keeping with the story told in the lyrics: “I’m leaving back where I come from, it is more bitter than sweet to see you with her.” Throw in a Fleetwood Mac cover, the melancholic ‘Sinful Wishing Well’, and charmingly swaggering album closer ‘Coming Up’ and you’ve get yourself a rather impressive debut outing.
Click the album cover above and you’ll go through to Caitlin Rose’s Myspace, where you can stream the record in its entirety. If you order now from Rough Trade, you get a free mix CD thrown in, which can’t be bad.
‘Own Side Now’ is available now on Names Recordings.