When Canton native Caroline Herring takes the stage at Hal & Mal's on Saturday night, she'll be riding in on a gentle wave of "Twilight" success. Singer/songwriter Herring, who now lives in the big alt-country city of Austin, Texas, captured the hearts of Lone Star fans in the same way her hauntingly simple melodies and slice-of-life Southern stories captured the hearts of Mississippians when Herring was a regular on the "Thacker Mountain Radio Show" in Oxford.
"Twilight," which was released in late 2001, is Herring's debut album. Her songs, written about simple Delta lives and people, are complemented by Herring's huge, soulful alto voice. A cast of stellar Austin musicians backs her on this CD, the likes of which include legendary bluegrass musician Peter Rowan, Paul Glasse, Eamon McLoughlin, and Bryn and Billy Bright. The CD also features guitarist/producer John Inmon.
Herring joined a bluegrass band, the Sincere Ramblers, while she was a graduate student in Southern folklore at Ole Miss. She sang and played mandolin and guitar with the Ramblers, whose members founded the Thacker Mountain Radio program, an old-fashioned radio show that is still held at a used bookstore. She has lived in Austin nearly three years now, where she has played at venues such as Stubb's BBQ.
Herring's voice is a cross between Gail Davies and a youthful Joan Baez, combined with a gentle, bluegrass-tinged Southern drawl. The CD ranges from old-time country, flavored with steel guitar, to bluegrass and acoustic folk music, featuring guitars, mandolin, fiddles and dobro. "Carolina Moon" has a sweet, bygone flavor of old-time country, while "Devil Made a Mess" is a lonesome, crying-in-your-beer pure country lament.
"Wise Woman" is solid acoustic folk, replete with woven fiddle and vocal harmonies. The minor key "Emma" is reminiscent of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings' haunting songs such as "Annabelle." Herring's vocal range is showcased on this lovely song.
All 11 cuts on Herring's debut CD are songs of tremendous depth and style, which is uncommon for a first-time effort. Her live shows offer the same intimate and down-home feel as is captured by "Twilight." She penned 10 of the 11 songs on the CD. "Wreck on the Highway" was written by Dorsey Dixon.
Herring will perform at Hal & Mal's (200 S. Commerce St., 948-0888) on Saturday, Nov. 2. See www.carolineherring.com