Jewel was one of the first artists I ever heard that bridged the gap from country music into the subtle soft acoustic music most associated with “Indie folk.” At the time I didn’t really know what I was hearing, but now I’ve grown to love that soft female singer-songwriter style. Sera Cahoone’s new album Deer Creek Canyon has enough steel guitar to make it country; aside from that, it’s also a really pure and beautiful element of gentle songwriting and sweet vocals.
The title track “Deer Creek Canyon” has an upbeat yet still gentle strum pattern that gives it a wonderful country music vibe. The imagery in the first verse puts listeners in mind of the wide open American west. “I know you’re right… might just take a little time.” It’s about navigating life and relationships with a sort of upbeat solemnity. It feels right.
One of my favorite aspects of this album is that it switches between what I’d call “honest to goodness country music” and a nearly-morbid stripped down acoustic style. One of the really good country-flavored tunes is “Nervous Wreck,” the title itself a reflection of a colloquial phrase. “I’ll be alright but I’m a nervous wreck.” It sounds like the hill country, complete with a well-played banjo and some hand claps. It’s a really fun tune and confesses the uncertainty that many people feel.
“And Still We Move” slows things down, but keeps the twangy steel guitar. You might feel like you’re at a high school dance, but it’s a country school. In all seriousness, this is a beautiful song. It really highlights Cahoone’s soft but strong vocals. She’s got a remarkable gift for preserving the integrity of a song. She doesn’t over sing. “I wish you’d come over and lend me your ears…” Oh Sera… I’d gladly lend my ears to hear you sing.
When I saw that this album had a tune called “Rumpshaker” on it, I was immediately floored. The opening chords had me wondering if the word was “Rumspringa” instead of rumpshaker. What, I wondered, could this song be doing on this album? I don’t think I was right in the assumptions I made about the song’s subject matter. It is, however, about the pitfalls of a relationship seemingly gone awry.
“Here With Me” is a romantic song. It also could be effective as a lullaby. It’s about loneliness after losing someone, but it’s about the romance. The lyrics… the pacing of the song… the sweetness in Cahoone’s voice all come together for a gorgeous song. It is the best song on the album by far and it belongs in an elite category of heartache songs true to the George Jones songwriting style. Awesome.
Start to finish this album is good. Some tracks, obviously, are better than others. Fans of classic country will find about half of the album to be excellent. Fans of Norah Jones and similar soft singers will enjoy the album quite a bit. I’d like for people to give this album a shot because of its genre bending nature. It’s not as simple as folk or pure country. Cahoone is a gifted singer, which should be enough to entice many listeners to give her album a listen.