Caroline Herring may be a throwback in some ways, but she's a welcome one indeed. While contemporary folk music (often called "new folk") has become a morass of introspective navel-gazing, Herring harks back to an earlier mode. Her songs play like the tales told by family members on the front porch, filled with vivid memories and glimpses of the natural world. They read like short stories and often refer to older songs from the tradition such as "Precious Memories" and "In the Sweet By and By." By linking herself to this lineage, Herring composes evocative pieces that convey the personal while summoning up the universal, which is part of the true folk mission statement.
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The quick reference might be Lucinda Williams, especially in the way Herring tills the Dixie soil for imagery. But where Williams is a raw-voiced blues mama, Herring sings with a greater clarity and purity of voice and draws from the legacy of mountain music and string band sounds. Her debut CD, Twilight, arrives as if it were already aged in the cask of genuine human experience and emotion. The best folk in some ways is never anything new, but rather the old made to sound new again as well as revelatory. And on that count, Herring succeeds with the confidence and depth of a veteran.