Masterclass in song-writing and delivery of bluegrass-tinged country.
Caleb Caudle knows how to make very good music, and deliver it with his rich voice that harks back to the very roots of country music. Being helped on production by John Carter Cash, the only child of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, and recording it in Cash’s legendary home studio, the Cash Cabin, helps root the album in Nashville’s past, present and future.
Caudle’s last album, “Better Hurry Up” (2020) spent weeks in the U.S. Americana Radio Top 30. It was released just before the world went into lockdown. His tour to promote it, at home and abroad, was pulled, and Caudle found himself with time on his hands for once. No more the busy cycle of recording, touring and recording. He chose to spend this grounded period walking and writing songs. As the future closed in, Caudle, like many musicians, reflected on whether it would ever be possible to play live again. Reacting positively to the darkening world, he decided to make a record which he thought may be his last before finding another way to make a living. So it was that he decided to make this ‘last’ album with the ten songs that inhabit it, the very best it could be.
The production on the album allows Caudle’s wise sweet voice to stand out over minimal instrumentation. Vocal harmonies are provided by Carlene Carter and Elizabeth Cook, both previous fellow collaborators. Producer, Carter Cash, recruited Jerry Douglas and Sam Bush to play on the sessions along with Dennis Crouch and Fred Eltringham.
These are great songs, sung well, over music that knows its place, a very well-crafted album with lots of heart. Stand out tracks include the biographical album opener ‘I Don’t Fit In’ which sees Caudle reflecting on life, and the folk-based title track ‘Forsythia’, which could have been born into the world any time in the last fifty years, yet sounds fresh and so relevant today. It captures vividly a moment in Caudle’s life and is typical of his natural style that is both observational and reflective.
“The natural world has always shown up in my lyrics but with these songs I felt that get magnified,” says Caudle. “The beauty and force of it all became sacred to me. I felt unplugged from the hustle and free to pay close attention to the details and it completely changed my approach to life.”
This album will fortunately not be the last that Caudle ever makes, despite those lockdown fears. This is an artist who needs to be out in the world delivering his melodic bluegrass country music. He delivers his finely crafted songs in a style that speaks of a bright future for him. The restrictive circumstances that led to this album, can now be replaced with the freedom of taking it out to a wide audience.
A reassuring and comforting gift to the world, bringing hope in a time of uncertainty. Exactly what we need.