Upon first listening to Caroline Rose’s America Religious (releasing July 2), I found it fresh and catchy. On my second listen, I settled in and it opened up to me – or I to it. In the lyrics I found political and social commentary nestled into the metaphors, and a little bit more of a lead foot as I drove down the road. I found a friend in her music; one who thinks similarly to me and who cares about the big picture and all its little breath-beings. The album carries you from destination to destination – as I imagine it did her.
The pure, driven Americana of Caroline Rose’s debut album is unmistakable. She carries blues, rock, bluegrass, country and singer-songwriter in her sound and it all melds perfectly. From track to track, the style changes slightly, but it’s all Americana. From the first track, a guitar-driven leavin’ song, the listener can tell this isn’t just a music album – it’s an experience Caroline Rose had and decided to share. Listen to the lyrics and you’ll really get to the heart of each song. In my favorite track, Here Come the Rain, Rose switches to a deep, soulful style that’s reminiscent of Ella Fitzgerald in some parts. The lyrics and music could stand on their own, so together they make more than an impact. Rose pulls on our comfortable cord with lyrics like “Crippled man out on a crate pouring truth out of his throat/screaming,/’Can't you see it's your own air on which you choke?’/’Yes sir but people are just passersby by trade/on our way to slave away all day the highways to our graves’/’You know the language may have differed/but the Romans said the same/Don't you know things of this earth will become earth once again?’ “
I’m reminded of artists like Jenny Lewis, Joni Mitchell and John Prine throughout the album. I suppose it’s appropriate, as she’s cited John Prine as one of her favorite artists. And like those musicians, Rose uses her own struggles to personalize the album. Most songs seem to draw on themes of growth, whether it’s those of growing into adulthood or growing out of complacency.
With her partner of four years, Jer Coons, Caroline Rose has created an album that digs deep and comes up with something golden. The poetry-put-to-music feel of America Religious strips away any artificiality and delivers simple honesty.
America Religious releases July 2, 2013. Caroline Rose will be visiting Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, DC, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, New Mexico, California, Colorado, Iowa, Missouri and Kentucky. She’ll be bringing her music to a city near you (I hope!), so check out her tour dates here. Getcha some (live music)!
I asked Caroline a few questions about herself and America Religious. They were so wonderful I decided to leave them as is – unedited and perfectly said.
GW: What's the significance of the album title?
CR: The title's not really supposed to have a real definition, it's just an invented term, a more or less tongue-in-cheek way to describe contemporary America. You know what I mean really, because it's everywhere. The devotion to all things super---superfoods, superhighways, supermarkets, the idea that we can all be superpeople when doing basically anything at all. Meanwhile, this ideology has made everything completely backwards, because it's not at all lasting. In fact, it goes completely against our nature. The fact that all the poorest people seem to be the most overweight, and have the most crap on their lawns, which is of course all made in China, who in turn has taken over our role in all things excess but on an even bigger scale. Or our relations toward illegal immigrants, who have become the ants maintaining the anthill, yet the most critical people don't seem to think about how important that is or how it can benefit us all. People who use the term "freedom" simply to get bills passed. I could keep going, these are just singular issues in a vast system, but I guess what I'm trying to expose, and what is the underlying thread tying all of these things together, is hypocrisy.
GW: How long did you work on this album?
CR: We recorded for about a month or so, but the mixing process took much longer, maybe another two and a half months. Once it was mastered I think the whole process was about four months. Jer and I work very differently though. I'd usually start working in the early morning and do whatever parts I'd have in my head and he'd come in later and show me how to get the sound I wanted or record another part. Most nights we slept on the floor of the studio. We probably could have done it much faster--I already knew what sound I wanted and had all the arrangements done--but it was summertime and I like to spend a lot of time outside. Anyone who's spent time in Vermont knows that summer is a coveted and precious time that should not be taken for granted!!
GW: Are there any songs from America Religious that are particularly close to your heart?
CR: I mean, I wrote them all so they are all particularly close to my heart, but I don't wanna be a party pooper and avoid the question so I will tell you that there is one song I sing at the end of every show and plan to sing at every show and it is very close to my heart...But you will have to come to a show to find out.
GW: This album strikes me as traveling music - what do you listen to when you travel?
CR: Boy oh boy, what DON'T I listen to is a better question! Well I travel quite a bit because I'm pretty much living out of my car or sofa-hopping at friends' apartments, so I've got a big collection of CDs on my front seat. Right now I've got this really great Spanish guitarist named Eduardo Fernandez in my CD player. Hmmm, there's some Kottke, Black Keys, Jay-Z, CCR, Joni, Prine, I also really love listening to Cumbia and old Rumba tunes. Tom Collins, my little '75 MGB, has a tape player, so I've also got a pretty insanely awesome tape collection I've acquired over the years from yard sales and thrift stores mostly. Most people just want to get rid of them so you can get all these amazing records for a quarter or free. Podcasts help pass the time on long drives. Radiolab is my favorite, though I've listened to them all twice through at this point.
GW: What's your favorite non-instrumental sound? (Birds, highway traffic, rain on a rooftop, etc.)
CR: You know, as a musician, you're always hearing music or going out to bars or meeting new people or driving big highways to get to big cities, so there becomes a real demand for silence sometimes. And most of us have never actually heard complete silence. I once went to Mammoth Cave in southern Kentucky, where you get to travel underground through millions of years of limestone deposits, and down there there's no sound of cars or planes or even faint traces of them. There's nothing. It's as if the whole world's muted. It's amazing and wild and would make you go totally insane.
GW: Name a really beautiful place you've been to.
CR: I was lucky to have been born to really adventurous parents, so I've gotten to see a lot of beautiful things, but there are only a very small handful of beautiful things that people still find truly sacred. I'm a big Native American history buff and so is my dad, so he and I took a trip following all the old Indian mounds east of the Mississippi, then from there went through the Black Hills (I am determined to one day find Crazy Horse's grave!!) and spent the night at Devil's Tower. I can't tell you how important I think it is that places like this are protected. There's a no-fly zone and you can't build on the land around there so that it remains silent. It'd make even the most unbelieving of unbelievers feel spiritual. Totally just hippied out on you guys. Whatever, this is Grateful Web, I'm among friends.
GW: Now that you've released your album, what's next in your music career? What about your life, in general?
CR: Well, I'd like to make some money at some point so I don't have to worry about it quite so much. So I can keep traveling. I'd like to live in Louisiana, somewhere in Arcadia, learn how to play zydeco tunes. I'd also like to go to Asia and the Middle East. I wish it weren't terribly dangerous in most of the Middle East because I'd really like to learn more about it, meet some people. I feel like our perception of Middle Eastern people is so skewed, when really, most are just normal people, living, trying to live, like everyone else.