Album: Caitlin Rose, Own Side Now (Names)

Sounds like twang spirit – the future of country is looking up

Can you catch sight of an exciting new artist too early?

Did the fans who witnessed the Beatles at the Cavern feel a sense of disappointment when they first heard the band on record? Worth asking, because initial listens to Caitlin Rose's debut album left me feeling a tad perplexed. Where was the feisty humour so apparent in those early solo shows and on the "Dead Flowers" EP? Had the good-girl-gone-bad gone back to being good again? Was the 23-year-old widely hailed as the "saviour of country music" playing it too safe?

Some months on, a different picture emerges. Firstly, though "Dead Flowers" got a UK release only last year, it was recorded when Rose was still in her teens. Add to that the fact that the more extreme "country" side of Rose's voice is not something she entirely enjoys listening to, and you're some way closer to discovering why Own Side Now sounds like Rose with the rough edges smoothed over.

Conversely, it's a bold move. The humour, feistiness and attitude are all still here, just not as in-your-face. And in making her album sound this polished, Rose is inviting people who might not ordinarily listen to her genre, in. Once there, they will not be disappointed. The voice (if double-tracked unnecesarily at times; she calls it her "mini-mes") is a gift from the gods; the level of songwriting equally unnatural in one so young.

Put Own Side Now on in the background, and it will not intrude or jar. Listen to it closer and it will deliver everything that was expected from this remarkable new talent.

Highlights? "Sinful Wishing Well" is a stone-cold future classic; "New York City" is as honest and knowing a song as you'll ever hear; "Shanghai Cigarettes" gets a magical makeover from heartbreaker to singalong hit; "Spare Me" is as good as almost anything in Dylan's back catalogue; and, well, the truth is there's not a bad song or dull moment in sight. Sigh.

The best thing to come out of Nashville for decades is transforming before our eyes into the best thing to come out of anywhere for a very long time. And you can't help feeling the crucial years are all ahead of her.

The new Dolly? The new Loretta? Hell no. She's Caitlin Rose. And she's all the better for that.

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