Caitlin Rose: A Singer Grounded In The Details Of Yearning

May 6, 2013
Originally published on May 6, 2013 3:20 pm

"Pink Champagne," a song on Caitlin Rose's second album The Stand-In, presents Rose's voice in its sparest purity and veiled shrewdness. She sends her voice skyward, the notes as buoyant and light as the bubbles of the pink champagne she's singing about. Her high trills could, with only a slight shift in tone and attitude, become self-conscious with a Betty Boop coyness, as they do once or twice on The Stand-In. But most of the time, Rose keeps her music grounded in the details of yearning, heartache and a welcome sense of gratefulness and enthused energy.

In "Menagerie," Rose makes breaking up sound like a good housecleaning of the soul. It features a guitar line that wouldn't be out of place on an early George Harrison solo album, which helps to identify the era of pop-rock from which Rose is working. Although she's been based in Nashville and got pegged as an alt-country singer earlier in her career, Rose sounds on The Stand-In like a pop vocalist; she draws upon everyone from Roy Orbison to Carlene Carter to the reedy, wistful tone of a singer such as Sal Valentino of the Beau Brummels to lay out the plaintive scenario of "Golden Boy."

As its title suggests, The Stand-In finds Rose assuming various roles in her songs, but they really boil down to two: the person who's been wronged and the person who's committed a wrong. Rose produced this album with Jordan Lehning and Skylar Wilson, who also co-wrote much of the material with her. The production of any given song frequently rubs against the mood of its lyric, with downbeat sentiments made tense when strung along a zippy, coursing melody, or a hopeful verse called into question by the downward spiral of guitars, keyboards and drums.

Rose tosses off a pun in "When I'm Gone," as she sings, "Lyin' / I've been lyin' / I've been lyin' around with the dogs in this town too long." She's preparing to beat a hasty retreat, yet the force of the music belies the image of Rose as a quitter or an escapee. Like another apparent influence here — the Everly Brothers' sound pops up in some of her layered, multi-tracked harmonies — Rose knows that it takes a strong, assured performer to sell the notion of vulnerability over the long haul. Keeping yourself open to the hurt is what her music is all about.

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Transcript

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

"The Stand-In" is Caitlin Rose's second album. Perhaps because she grew up in Texas and spent a lot of time in Nashville, Rose has frequently been categorized as a country singer. But rock critic Ken Tucker says this new collection demonstrates a much wider range.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PINK CHAMPAGNE")

CAITLIN ROSE: (Singing) Look out of the window, babe. See how far it goes. See how all the time does fly when you're staring out of windows. Pictures in the...

KEN TUCKER, BYLINE: I chose that song, "Pink Champagne," to lead off this review because it presents Caitlin Rose's voice in its most unadorned purity and veiled shrewdness. Rose lofts her voice skyward, the notes as buoyant and light as the bubbles of the pink champagne she's singing about.

Her high trills could, with only a slight shift in tone and attitude, become self-conscious with a Betty Boop coyness, and I'm not saying that doesn't occur once or twice on this album "The Stand-In." But most of the time, Rose keeps her music grounded in the details of yearning, heartache and a welcome sense of gratefulness and enthused energy.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MENAGERIE")

ROSE: (Singing) It happened today. Now I'm walking away from this pieces of silver and blue. Say you can why this happens to me when it's really what's happening to you. Now I stepped alone on a pallet of stone till you moved me from where I lay. But I can't sleep on imperial sheets where the bed always has to be made.

(Singing) I saw it clear a new space for me here in your menagerie. But I'm going to dance over broken glass and destroy all of these beautiful things.

TUCKER: That's "Menagerie," in which Caitlin Rose makes breaking up sound not hard to do, but rather like a good housecleaning of the soul. It features a guitar line that wouldn't be out of place on an early George Harrison solo album, which helps to fix the era of pop-rock from which Rose is working.

Although she's been based in Nashville and got pegged as an alt-country singer earlier in her career, Rose sounds on this new album very much a pop vocalist drawing upon everyone from Roy Orbison to Carlene Carter to the reedy, wistful tone of a singer such as Sal Valentino of the Beau Brummels to deliver the plaintive scenario of a song like "Golden Boy."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GOLDEN BOY")

ROSE: (Singing) Doomsday came and you were still around. We watched that china bar burn down. World's been at an end since you can't remember when. But all you know is it's all over now. Golden boy, don't go away. I won't ask you what you're here for if you'll stay. Golden boy, don't make me pay. Just 'cause I try living for today.

TUCKER: As its title suggests, throughout "The Stand-In" Rose assumes various roles in her songs. Actually, they boil down to two: the person who's been wronged and the person who's committed a wrong. She's produced this album with Jordan Lehning and Skylar Wilson, who also co-wrote much of the material with Rose.

The production of any given song frequently rubs against the mood of its lyric, with downbeat sentiments made tense when strung along a zippy, coursing melody, or a hopeful verse called into question by the downward spiral of guitars, keyboards and drums. You can hear this, for example, in "When I'm Gone."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHEN I'M GONE")

ROSE: (Singing) Come on, you can sleep when I'm gone. I was lying when I said we had plenty of time. Don't need your alibi, baby, 'cause I'm always smiling trying to see my crime. Lying. I've been lying. I've been lying around with the dogs in this town too long. Too long to tell if I've been lying or just another one of those dogs is what I've become. Come on...

TUCKER: Rose tosses off a pun on that song, singing, Lying, I've been lying, I've been lying around with the dogs in this town too long. She's preparing to beat a hasty retreat, yet the force of the music belies the image of Rose as a quitter or an escapee.

Like another apparent influence I hear - the Everly Brothers' sound pops up in some of her layered, multi-tracked harmonies - Rose knows that it takes a strong, assured performer to sell the notion of vulnerability over the long haul. And keeping yourself open to the hurt is what her music is all about.

DAVIES: Ken Tucker reviewed "The Stand-In" by Caitlin Rose.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EVERYWHERE I GO")

ROSE: (Singing) I could sail across the ocean to the shoreline of Japan. Cut through every city and every foreign land. Run away from it all just as fast as I can but no matter where I go, no matter where I go, there I am. There I am.

DAVIES: You can download podcasts of our show at freshair.npr.org. Follow us on Twitter at #nprfreshair and on Tumblr at nprfreshair.tumblr.com. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.