Album Review

When You Can Sing About Your Washroom, You Can Sing About Anything

Caroline Cotter - Home On the River

Serendipity, that's what I call it. When something happens for a reason. Living in Oregon, I have grown so used to watching the world of music pass over what used to be a black hole in terms of touring. Most artists prefer to pass over Portland and, at times, Seattle too, for the sake of the bottom line. I figured that would be the case for Caroline Cotter's tour, but I just checked her schedule and she has four dates booked within a car's drive in March. I cannot believe it! Four! 

After hearing Cotter's soon-to-be-released Home On the River, I am actually considering all four. Coos Bay is always a nice drive and I have friends in North Bend (Coos Bay's version of Eugene to North Bend's Springfield). Portland is a short drive up the freeway, Eugene is just down the pike the other direction, and Sisters (the home of the Sisters Folk Festival) is just over the hump in Central Oregon. A virtual cornucopia of concerts, by golly!

You might ask yourself why I would want to attend all four and the answer is on the album, just as it was on Dave McGraw and Mandy Ferrarini's Maritime album, just as it was on Picture the Ocean's self-titled album. When I hear music this good, I can't afford to miss it for fear of it not happening again — within my lifetime, of course. Hey, I'm not getting any younger, you know?

The first notes of the first track, “Peace of Mind,” had me convinced Cotter is something special. She has an honesty about her music that, to me, is quite disarming. The songs are smooth, laid out simply and forthrightly, and are downright refreshing. It's the lyrics that grabbed me, I thought at first, but on subsequent listens I found it was the combination of music and lyrics. I eventually found myself returning to an old favorite by Adrienne Young titled The Art of Virtue, pulling it out for a quick listen, and there it was — the honesty. No musical legerdemain, no gimmicks, no attempt to follow a trend. Just music the way it used to be made: organically.

There are roots all over the album and yet they do not interfere with the pure enjoyment of listening. These songs stand on their own without the bells and whistles that could easily have gotten in the way, the obvious inclusion of an instrument here or an attempt at over-the-top vocals. Whenever anything is obvious, I have found, it just doesn't sound right. To my ears, anyway.

I can hear Cotter now, singing any one of the songs on the new album, raising spirits with one song, calming them with another. Sweet and smooth. Just like Home On the River.

I recommend checking out Cotter's website for more information, especially regarding her touring schedule. I just have this feeling, you know?