Quick Spin: Caitlin Rose's 'Own Side Now'

Tuesday, March 15, 2011; C03

Caitlin Rose Own Side Now

Given a quick listen, Nashville singer-songwriter Caitlin Rose's full-length debut comes across as a tuneful, unassuming affair. Let it sink in deeper, and it reveals the work of a deft melodist and lyricist, an artist as incisive and self-possessed, in her way, as Jenny Lewis or Feist.

Echoes of those women's music, as well as that of the McGarrigle sisters and a female country pioneer or two, can be heard throughout the 10 performances here. The cozy, parlor-song ethos of the McGarrigles is maybe the most pronounced, especially on "Things Change" and the lilting title track. And yet, just as soon as one of these influences suggests itself, it's eclipsed by the muted force of Rose's personality. "Who's gonna want me/When I'm just somewhere you've been," she asks in a willowy soprano, wondering if she'll ever be loved again in "Own Side," one of the record's handful of quietly devastating tracks.

Several others, including the ironically self-deprecating "Learnin' to Ride," favor lightly cantering beats and subtle filigrees of acoustic instrumentation. The undulating "For the Rabbits" is more fleshed out musically, featuring orchestration and tremolo guitar. "Shanghai Cigarettes" is hooked by nimble hand claps and cascading rhythms.

"Love is just one more useless thing you don't need but you can't throw away," Rose wryly asserts on the harmonica-sweetened "Spare Me." Her take on love and romance notwithstanding, there isn't a disposable note on her record, an album that not only rewards repeated listening but, given half a chance, will warm - and break - your heart.

- Bill Friskics-Warren

Recommended tracks: "Spare Me," "Own Side," "For the Rabbits"

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