I don't usually review just opening acts, but this week, after hearing Caroline Herring's debut CD, Twilight, I thought I'd make an exception– maybe I could provide a little brick in the path that will lead her to the acclaim for which she is destined. On the other hand, maybe she doesn't need my help at all.
Herring’s rootsy country-folk songs, in her simple, earnest voice, tell tales of the rural south, both from the first person perspective of a young girl making the trip into womanhood there, and using an observational story-telling style that real country music fans (i.e. not Shania Twain country) should be well acquainted with. If you had suspicions, they are correct– Herring spent most of her youth growing up in Canton, Mississippi, and it’s that locale from which she draws most of the stories and musings found on Twilight.
It was in the mid-‘90s that things started to happen, musically, for Herring. She was attending graduate school at the University of Mississippi, pursuing a degree in southern folklore, when she began singing, and playing guitar and mandolin in the bluegrass band the Sincere Ramblers. The Ramblers started an old-tyme radio show in a second-floor used bookstore– they were the house band who played in between guest authors reading their work. They also performed with touring musicians like Gillian Welch and Peter Rowan, among others.
In 1999, Herring moved to Austin to ostensibly pursue schooling as a doctoral candidate in American Studies at the University of Texas, but music came calling. Peter Rowan introduced her to Billy and Bryn Bright, who performed with Rowan in the Texas Trio, and subsequently they became Herring’s backing group. A little over a year later, they signed a deal with Houston’s Blue Corn Records, and Twilight was born.
Although the album benefits from the playing of some of Austin’s best musicians, it’s Herring’s songs that provide the exquisite base on which their accomplished playing rests. Sometimes sweet folk is her mode, which can be slightly countrified. Sometimes a bluegrass stomp is laid down on which Herring weaves her delicate tales of southern life.
Although her musings about being a youngster in the south are quite intelligent and literary, it’s on the pieces in which Herring exits her own world and enters another that I found myself most captivated.
Caroline Herring is a youngster on the music scene, but already her words and melodies speak of a wealth of experience beyond her years. Her folk-bluegrass sound is one genre I know Charlottesville can’t get enough of– if you haven’t heard the CD, and you have the hardware required (a computer), check it out online at HYPERLINK http://www.carolineherring.com carolineherring.com. If you can’t, and dig that sweet rootsy sound, just go to the show. I know you won’t be disappointed.
Caroline Herring opens for Robert Earl Keen at Starr Hill, October 15. $15, 9pm.