Caitlin Rose, Dingwalls, London

 

“Sure is dark in here, hope no one's doing anything naughty,” is how this Southern belle greets her enthusiastic audience (they whoop, holler, wolf whistle) before launching into “No One to Call”, the opening number of Caitlin Rose's exceptional new album, The Stand In.

It's the sort of nimble, poppy track that could easily grace the TV show Girls and there's more than a hint of Lena Dunham (her look, humour, sass) about this precociously talented country singer.

“I've got heels on, so I'm very serious tonight,” maintains the elfin 25-year-old, and unlike a couple of years ago when she tended to drink through her gigs, Rose avoids the hooch here. However, it doesn't prevent a steady stream of non-sequiturs and kooky asides. Some of which are quite droll: “Anyone got a fear of clowns? All they're doing is trying to make you happy”. Some are more acerbic: “You're supposed to clap people, come on”.

Rose admits she's a little “jittery” showcasing The Stand In, her follow-up to the lavishly praised debut One Side Now. She needn't be, as her gorgeously wounded voice is a thing of beauty. The Nashville singer, the daughter of Grammy award-winning country singer Liz Rose, has been giddily compared to the likes of Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn, but “poppier” artists such as Edie Brickell, Rickie Lee Jones and Lucinda Williams also come to mind.

Her second record is a far slicker affair than her first, jam-packed as it is with hook-laden tracks, pedal steel guitar and potentially huge hits, from the sumptuous lament “Pink Champagne” to the perky “Golden Boy”, which sounds like early Eighties Blondie gone country. Best of all, however, are the heartbreak songs (aren't they always?) “Waitin'” (with the distressed lyric “Have you been waitin' on a broken heart? Did you see the end from the very start?”) and the mournful “Silver Song” (“Some are bound to fall/ And only end up in the weeds”).

To demonstrate her range, Rose does a passable impression of Bessie Smith on slow track “Old Numbers” and delivers a robust cover of The Felice Brothers' “Dallas”. The highlight, however, is the exquisitely world weary “For the Rabbits” (“Fall back into my desperate arms/ Fall back into routine disaster”) from her debut.

Rose, despite a few technical hitches and a constant low-level hubbub, conquers her nerves and the room, delivering a never less than compelling country set. This mildly eccentric artist is destined for bigger, lighter venues.

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