Forget Taylor Swift and the rest of her incorrigible ilk, according to the recent accolades, the future of country music belongs in the hands of Caitlin Rose, a twenty-three year old Nashville native whose looks are only surpassed by her voice. Though this might seem like an outlandish statement, in the last year, in one EP and this, her debut album, she has given more than enough evidence to give credibility to the sentiment.
Rose’s previous release, the EP Dead Flowers, was a ballsy effort that combined traditional country elements with a modern indie touch and a wry punk swagger; leading to the best lyrics about smoking I’ve encountered; “I got a fresh pack, I got a red bic. The Surgeon General can suck on my dick.”
As a result, the Caitlin Rose that appears on Own Side Now is somewhat of a surprise. The indie influence is dialled down to create a quieter and more refined sound than was previously suggested; the lyrics are more adult in nature and the use of a full band gives the songs a richness that was lacking previously. The biggest change is in the production quality, which adds a worn and familiar tone to the album.
In fact, album opener, “Learnin’ to Ride” could well have been released in the sixties; its sun kissed sound evokes images of Americana and has lyrics that feel like they should have been written by someone middle-aged, not just into their twenties.
The first single, “For the Rabbits” continues this notion with its narrative of an abandoned woman begging for an old flame to return despite all the faults on the basis that, “it’s better than being alone.” However, this song is one of the album’s few faults. In comparison to the rest of the album, it does not hold up on repeat listens and may leave a desire to hit the skip button.
That may also be because album highlight, “Shanghai Cigarettes” is the track that follows it. It’s a buoyant track, which likens the difficulties of quitting smoking with ditching the loser you’ve been with for far too long. The instrumentation helps makes it one of the few songs that indicate that the album is from the twenty-first century. Likewise, “New York City”, which also shows that her humorous quality is still lingering in the background; lyrics like, “I got lost on the lower east side, ‘cause I pissed off my tour guide,” can’t help but bring a smile to your face.
The album has so few missteps that at times it is hard to believe that Own Side Now is a debut album. With such deft lyrical proficiency and a voice that belong to a performer much further into their career, Caitlin Rose is a name to look out for in the future.