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Album Review: Caitlin Rose Is On Her Own Side Now And It's Impossible Not To Take Her Side...

Own Side Now, out in the states 3/15/11
In the snark infested world of the blogosphere the approach du jour seems to be, build it up in order to tear it down. “What Duvet Said…” has always held as its unstated mission a commitment to championing artists we feel deserving of praise or mention, while leaving the snark and vitriol to other blogs - figuring acts of omission speak just as loudly and take up less blogspace. Okay, maybe the occasional barb or societal jab, but by and large bringing our readers the best and brightest as determined by, well, us. This is not to say some aren’t better and brighter and all matters “art” are of equal value and shouldn’t be dissected with a critical eye. However, we believe Finnish composer Jean Sibelius said it best, “Pay no attention to what the critics say. A statue has never been erected in honor of a critic.” So with that as our mantra let’s engage in some criticism!

Caitlin Rose’s first full-length release, Own Side Now, will be out tomorrow March 15th on Theory 8 Records, after already being available in Europe since August of last year. The twenty-three year old Nashville based singer-songwriter has been receiving largely raves for both her album and performances across the pond. Now, she will begin to tackle the more genre obsessed, box-placing American “critirati”. For an artist like Rose, simply classifying her as a “country artist” shortchanges her range as a songwriter and performer. It would be a travesty to label such a phenomenal talent and close her off from audiences that have an aversion to country music. Rose too seems aware of this, when in her song “New York”, she states; “So Tennessee, when I get home/You just better leave me alone/Dont try to claim me as your own/Im not the girl I used to be.” Other reviews often site Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn as musical touchstones or kindred spirits. Sure Own Side Now is steeped in country music’s rich traditions, but like contemporary and fellow Nashvillian Tristen’s recent release Charlatans at the Garden Gate, this is not your mama’s country or even you meemama’s. It’s something unique to this generation of Nashville musicians that have one foot on the Opry stage and the other wherever the hell it feels like stepping!

Rose’s voice is strong and powerful which makes a song like title track, “Own Side Now” sound like a declaration of finally finding inner-strength and not just another empty promise made from an empty bed. The songs on this album are perfectly instrumented, keeping the focus on the essential elements: lyrics and voice. There are some occasional strings and brushed drums match the tempo of windshield wipers on a long drive to or away from a broken love. “For The Rabbits” conjures the 50’s with its staccato guitar and swelling backups on the chorus. When Rose sings, “So fall back into my absent arms/Fall back into routine disaster/Habit's the only place that you call home”, it could very well soon be directed to Rose herself. Soon she will be finding herself the absent one. Constant touring lends itself to habits, rituals, and experiences that are impossible to share with those outside this bubble. Success further insulates you from connecting with the “simpler life” chronicled in many artists’ earlier material. Already, we see the strains of realizing dreams on Own Side Now starting to surface, as opposed to the dreams themselves chronicled on Dead Flowers. It will be interesting to witness this young artist coming to terms with her life through song - which is Rose’s gift - as the foundation for her experiences continues to shift away from the familiar and into more surreal setting of music industry success.

Guitarist Jeremy Fetzer joins Caitlin Rose at 2010 ACL Festival in Austin, TX
The song that most encapsulates Caitlin Rose’s ability to mesh lyrical acuity with hooks that already seem timeless is in “Shanghai Cigarettes”. Unlike many of Music City’s more manufactured superstars, who will remain nameless, Rose comes off as the genuine article and it becomes hard to separate her from the characters in her songs. That is what makes the heartaches more intense and the triumphs more inspirational. When she describes love as “useless” in “Spare Me” we know she doesn’t mean it. The undercurrent of a woman coming into her own and the darkened realizations that go along with that growth permeate Own Side Now. Nowhere on this record is that sentiment better captured than on “Things Change”, where there is a singular pride emerging out of the murk of the orchestral musical backing. There truly is something occurring on this album that goes beyond simply a collection of songs. We witness an artist making a statement about who she is now and who she’d like to be one day. Sometimes the message is masked in bravado, sometimes it’s left bare and exposed but it’s always authentic and compelling. Do yourself a favor and buy Caitlin Rose’s Own Side Now. Go home, put it on, and in the words of Paul Westewrberg, “knock it back with something, sweet and strong.” That’s Caitlin Rose in a nutshell.

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