Music in Bristol: Caitlin Rose at The Fleece is our gig of the week
Ihave a tendency to work small, so this album is like my first attempt at a high kick," says Rose of her second album, The Stand In. It comes out on February 25 and follows 2010's Own Side Now, an album full of yearning pedal steel, slick guitar licks, brushed drums and an enviable knack for a catchy hook.
At just 23 years old, Rose's first album was critically acclaimed by almost every newspaper and music rag in the UK, her voice often drawing comparisons to the likes of Patsy Cline and Linda Ronstadt.
And yet, listening to The Stand In, it's hard to imagine where the critics have left to go, such was the frothing hyperbole three years ago.
Not that the praise was unwarranted, but the improvements are enough to make that job an extremely difficult one.
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Where Rose found vulnerability in sparse strumming and mournful harmonies on Own Side Now ("I'm goin' out on town / Said I'm tired of chasin' you down / And it's not my right to always push you around / I'm on my own side now"), on The Stand In's Golden Boy, she belts, "I'm reaching up if you're still reaching down," with such gusto – and on a song so elegantly inspired by 1950s Hollywood soundstage – that what looks like a similar sentiment on paper is now a coy put-down, and empoweringly so.
Maturity is the theme here, from the lyrical content to the songwriting, the arrangements to the sequencing. Whereas favourite tracks from her debut were easy to predict, it's equally easy to imagine any one of these 12 songs topping someone's list.
In true Nashville tradition (Rose moved there with her family when she was seven), an orchestra of accomplished musicians was handpicked to perform on the album, which features cello, violin, saxophone, trumpet and mandolin.
Alongside the rotating cast, there were also old friends Jordan Lehning (Kenny Rogers, Justin Townes Earle) and Skylar Wilson (JTE, The Depressions) and Rose's bandmates Jeremy Fetzer (electric guitar) and Spencer Cullum (pedal and slide guitar). Between them, they veer between rollicking rhythms, Bob Fosse-influenced ragtime, woozy guitar and swoonsome strings without any feeling of disconnectedness.
There are two covers on the album, by The Deep Vibration and the Felice Brothers, though it's next to impossible to pick them out without prior knowledge of the songs.
There are also two songwriting collaborations with Gary Louris of The Jayhawks, Only a Clown, described so perfectly on her website as a "wind-in-your-hair road trip of a song that sounds 50 feet tall but is somehow contained within three-and-a-half minutes," and Silver Sings, a fantastically catchy, Neko Case-esque country pop track. A high kick, indeed.
Rose has made a number of notable UK appearances, including performances at End Of The Road (where the audience demanded an encore and she was upgraded to a larger stage), Green Man, iTunes Festival, and radio sessions for Lauren Laverne and Marc Riley.
This time around, Rose plays just five dates in the UK, with other shows planned in Brighton, London, Leeds and Manchester.
Support comes from Steelism, Fetzer and Cullum's pedal steel and guitar duo, and Nashville's Andrew Combs, described as "equal parts rough-and-tumble Sixties Chicago blues, Planet Waves-era Dylan, and vintage Nashville folk".