CALEB CAUDLE — Tobacco Town
Caleb Caudle’s second solo album Tobacco Town is likely to slip beneath the radar of a lot of alt-country fans. Released on the tiny Chapel Hill label Robust Records, it’s the first album bearing only his name since his dusty 2007 record Red Bank Road, and it was just a year ago that he and his band the Bayonets chose to drop his name off of the front end to project a unified creative front. To a degree, that decision also projected the new course they were charting on their 2012 release Driver. Caleb Caudle & the Bayonets artfully flirted the divide between rock and country without ever needing to be called “country rock,” anchored by Caudle’s knack for writing acutely meditative songs, while the Bayonets lead with their amps and left country in the dust. But like Caudle sings on Tobacco Town’s lead track, “Blue or gray, it’s the same sky,” and Caudle’s affection for that lonesome twang is manifested here. While his songwriting on Driver looked out over the horizon with a 1,000-yard gaze, here he returns to emotional dissection of the individual, something he did remarkably well on 2010’s Snake River Canyon. Usually, that individual is himself, but his lyrics transmute to the shared experience. You find yourself in “Little Reminders” when he describes the trifles of his own romance, though Caudle has never had trouble with relatability. He’s been steadily expanding his sonic palette since his first release and while Tobacco Town is a vehicle for the return to banjos and fiddles, he nods to Winston- Salem’s bygone jangle-pop scene with bubble chorale harmonies on “Hesitate,” while his doo-woppy hooks and Chris Ankelein’s snappy drumming on “Miss Me When You’re Gone” reach even further back into his city’s musical heritage. The next step for Caudle would seem to be diversification in his subject matter; you know where he stands interpersonally, so what else is there to him? Still, a great couple of guest spots by Caitlin Cary and unambiguous production quality by Bayonet multi-instrumentalist Sam Kossler certify Tobacco Town among Caudle’s best output.
Caleb Caudle will release Tobacco Town this Friday night at Ziggy’s in support of Lucero.
Note: The printed score of 70 is incorrect. The album actually received a 77/100.