Review of Caitlin Rose's The Stand-In by Levi Bagdanov
There is something special about classic female country singers. In the 60’s and 70’s when the boys were pretending to be ramblers and outlaws, the women of country music were singing grounded tales of poverty, infidelity, and feminism.
From Patsy Cline’s unflinching ballads of unrequited love and cheating hearts to Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton’s reflections on poverty in rural America and the moral double standards placed upon women, there is a tradition in country music of strong women casting aside traditional expectations and staring down the troubles in their lives.
It is out of this rich tradition that Caitlin Rose
Rose, who hails from the epicenter of country music, Nashville, Tennessee, released her second album, The Stand-In,
in March on ATO Records.
I am not the first to draw comparisons between Rose and the likes of Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn. These comparisons are mostly due to Rose’s captivating voice: powerful yet delicate, unique yet familiar, beautiful yet humble.
You feel like you know her.
You feel like you grew up with her.
And then she belts a stanza or delicately dances through a bridge and you are left wondering when that person you knew left the room and was replaced by a crooning country diva.
The power of Rose’s voice is best showcased on the track “Waitin’.” A bluesy, scuttling track, Rose slowly builds through the verse to a fever pitch, bringing an intensity into the chorus that echoes the pain and disappointment expressed in the lyrics:
“I never knew that you were only waitin’ on a broken heart.” Rose is a master of conjuring emotion. She rises and falls, twists and turns, always leading you straight to the marrow of the song.
What truly separates Rose from her peers is her ability to work within the constructs of traditional country music while maintaining an intriguing and modern aesthetic. So many artists who work within a traditional genre are unable to transcend that genre to create something both interesting and original. They simply exist as shadows of an earlier time, playing songs that excite little more than faint feelings of nostalgia. I think Rose’s trick is honesty.
You can’t help but believe Rose’s earnestness. The song “Golden Boy” with its shimmering production and breezy Hawaiian arrangement is an unflinching portrayal of the degradation and desperation felt when being dumped. Rose sings, “Golden boy, don’t go away. I wont ask you what you’re here for if you’ll stay.” She continues down this hole of heartache, singing: “I’m still reaching up if you’re still reaching down.” She does not try to present herself as strong or dignified but rather digs into the embarrassing and demeaning way we see at ourselves when we are rejected.
Laying bare her weakness, we see strength in Rose’s vulnerability. A vulnerability that recalls a tradition in which Patsy Cline “fall[s] to pieces” in the presence of her beloved and Dolly Parton begs Jolene to stay away from her man.
Rose’s songs are steeped in tradition, and yet there is something new and enticing about her music that keeps you coming back. And it is this quality that has propped Rose up as heiress apparent of the great country divas of the past.
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