Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Album Review: "Tobacco Town" by Caleb Caudle

Tobacco Town was released on October 22, 2012
Caudle will be performing in Raleigh at The Pour House
on Saturday, November 24 w/ Wylie Hunter,
Onward, Soldiers and Old Quarter
Tobacco Town marks the first solo album from The Bayonets' lead singer Caleb Caudle, and the release is a step in a far different direction than that of the rambling rock n' roll tunes of his full time band.  Trading in electric guitars for acoustics, banjos and fiddles, Caudle steps into a folkier direction that allows his sincere lyrics to take the forefront while soothing instrumentation allows the listener to glide through an album thats remarkably easy to listen through.  Think of it as Petty trading in the Heartbreakers' rockin' status for a more low-key and personal "Wildflowers", while the album isn't nearly as monumental as the aforementioned, it makes the same transitional steps that allow the songwriter to focus more on personalized lyrics and speak on topics that may be strayed away from in a bar friendly band like The Bayonets.

Tobacco Town starts out strong with a hopeful yet somber tune, "Blue or Gray" but picks up steam with one of the album's highlights, "Hesitate".  While Caudle's lyricism is definitely a strong suit, his talent lies mostly in his ability to craft addicting melodies out of these meaningful tunes.  "Hesitate" is one of the poppier tracks on the album, standing tall with a catchy chorus to counteract its jangly verses.    But for every track like "Hesitate" comes ones like "Midnight Beauty" or "Little Reminders", while they have some memorable lyrics that can strike up vivid images like, "Little reminders of you in the pockets of my jeans/Your hair on the pillow, the vinyl still out of the sleeves", they can tend to drag on with melodies that feel a bit too static.  However, while these tracks may not pop as much as others, each one has stellar composition that pays off greatly with stellar vocal harmonies and violin parts from guests like Caitlin Cary and Haley Dreis.  While the opening tracks feel hit or miss, Tobacco Town finds its stride towards the second half of the album with a cohesive and seamlessly flowing string of songs that give us a peek into Caudle's psyche.

While the album certainly has its highs and lows, it can most definitely lay claim to the fact that it perfectly grasps the vibe of life in the Carolinas.  Title track, "Tobacco Town" is a great representation of this, Caudle sings of "Crushed cans and wristbands, worn-out inks on stamped hands", even within the track titles you can find good ol' southern imagery with "Cicadas and Hydrangeas".  Ultimately Caudle benefits from the addition of a truly southern record into his repertoire, his songwriting feels reinvigorated and re-inspired.  It could be due to the shared experience of working with a loved one (Caudle's dating violinist and vocalist Haley Dreis), or it could come from the free reign of being the sole creative mind behind the works, either way a sense of urgency has returned to his songwriting.

Caudle's always been able to evoke strong emotions from his instantly relatable lyrics, but there's no doubt that some of the latest Bayonets records feel a bit less personal and cover more of a general relateability.  Caudle has pulled back the curtains with Tobacco Town and the album feels like his strongest release since Stay On, back when the act was Caleb Caudle and The Bayonets.  On Tobacco Town we hear of feigned love and a struggling sense of self combined with an absolute joy for life and the love around him, this duality pays off and makes for a truly natural record.  Tobacco Town oozes with sincerity, "Now the phone only rings when you need something/And the phone doesn't ring much at all", Caudle sings on the album closer "Reckless Motorcycle" which acts as a euphemism for a relationship gone awry.  Caleb seems to have found his voice again within his solo debut, and whether he continues on a solo path or returns to more work with The Bayonets, it feels like the songwriter is firing on all cylinders once again.

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