When writing about Number 30 in this list, I mentioned a hastily rearranged after on the main stage at the Green Man Festival. Sweet Baboo was one of the acts to benefit from the late arrival of Mountain Man, the other being Caitlin Rose. While I still wish I’d seen her charm the pants off the small, more intimate crowd to which she had originally been booked to perform, her sudden elevation produced one of the highlights of the weekend. Having become acquainted with the album a week or two prior to this set, I was anticipating something special and was not disappointed. Rose’s perfect, country lilt is magical on record and a force of nature live. But let’s focus on the actual album.
I reckon you could be sold on this record 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’.
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.
Her early EP, ‘Dead Flowers’, is well worth seeking out, capturing as it does her more stripped down, raw sound rather well. It’s a fitting side dish to accompany the main course and you’d be advised to grab it before it disappears, should ‘Own Side Now’ have the impact I imagine it will. In the final weeks of 2010, this album has made a genuine case for being even higher in this list, and its resting place of 3 marks a climb from its initial placing when I first started to arranged a Top 30. It is an irresistible collection of tunes by an artist destined for big things, which is not to say that this isn’t an impressive way to get things underway. It really, truly is.