Volume 6, Issue 3 University of Houston
Herring's 'Wellspring' formulaic but impressive
By Blake Whitaker
Music, no matter how complex or unorthodox, can be reduced down to its base elements -- a bow scraping across violin strings, air traveling through a reed or the hammer of a piano key pricking one of its strings. The artist decides whether these elements will become a symphony or a three-chord pop song.
On her sophomore release Wellspring, rising country/folk singer Caroline Herring keeps things toward the simple end of the spectrum, using the standard formula of twangy guitars and delicate arrangements for her mostly acoustic music. What separates her from the flock of aspiring singer/songwriters playing in sparsely populated bars is her exceptional voice and above-average songwriting.
Caroline Herring breathes new life into the standard country/folk formula with her sophomore effort, Wellspring.
Photo courtesy of Blue Corn Music
Most listeners are probably accustomed to her musical and lyrical style. A haunting pedal steel guitar and the occasional fiddle accent quiet fingerpicking and lyrics about heartache, being on the road, heartache, Texas and heartache. Herring's lyrics may touch on conventional subjects, but her confessional style and storytelling often leaves one wondering what's going to happen next in her songs -- an exceptional feat in a genre that's so prone to formulaic pandering.
Herring's voice is another factor that sets her apart from the pack,. Her graceful twang may not have a huge range, but it stays on key even during complex parts, and it certainly isn't lacking in power. If her vocals are any indication of her personality, Herring is no doubt a strong-willed but gentle southern girl (she is from Mississippi -- the accent is authentic). The production of Wellspring thankfully allows her voice to sound full, natural and slightly flawed, even while she harmonizes with other vocalists. Listeners may be reminded of Linda Rondstadt. When talking about voice, such comparisons are never a bad thing.
The arrangements on Herring's second album are pretty and predictable. More folk than rock, they manage to complement her singing without stealing the spotlight. She accompanies herself on guitar, and a second guitarist provides some interesting lead playing that is the closest thing to rock to the album. Well-placed fiddle, pedal steel guitar and organ lend some character to Herring's standard country chord progressions.
Listeners will appreciate a prominent Texas feel that Herring brings on Wellspring. She's been cutting her teeth in Austin for the past couple of years, as good as any a training for musicians who share her down-home style. The style invites comparisons to mind with legendary Texas songwriter Townes Van Zandt, but Herring has a long way to go before she comes close to that plateau. Nevertheless, her abilities have rightfully put her ahead of her fellow aspiring country musicians.
Blue Corn Music
The verdict: Fans of country/folk music will definitely enjoy Wellspring.
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