On her fourth album Caroline Herring has gone retro. Golden Apples Of The Sun could just as easily have been released in 1969. Full of fingerpicked acoustic guitar and solo vocals Herring's album is an intimate musical document that will remind anyone who was around in the ‘60's why they loved "folk music."
After Herring's first album, Twilight, came out in 2001, she moved to Austin, Texas and quickly became part of that burgeoning music scene. 2003 saw the release of her second album, Wellspring, which was hailed for its focused "Southern Gothic" mood. 2008's Latana continued to mine this musical vein. When I reviewed it, I remarked on its "musical tapestries full of dark landscapes, bittersweet images, and other worldly moments." On Golden Apples Of The Sun Herring concentrates more on the basics and less on atmosphere. Of the twelve songs, four are covers while the rest are originals. On some of her tunes Herring sets poems by Yeats, Wendell Berry, and Pablo Neruda to music. Without the liner notes you'd be hard-pressed to tell which of her new songs used these poems because she's incorporated these lyrics so seamlessly into her music.
The four cover tunes on Golden Apples Of The Sun not only display Herring's roots but also demonstrate how far she has traveled on her musical journey. Her interpretation of Joni Mitchell's "Cactus Tree" combines a classic folk fingerstyle guitar part with almost haggard vocals. Herring's version is far less naive than Mitchell's original. On "Long Black Veil" Herring alters the melody so completely that it might as well be a new song that merely borrows the original's lyrics. Her version is spookier and more otherworldly than any employing the original melody. Her take on the blues staple "C.C. Rider" also uses a new melody and emphasizes the narrative of the verses rather than leaning on the chorus as do most versions. And finally, her take on Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors" moves the song from a pop-rock anthem to a confessional lamentation.
Producer David Goodrich adds his acoustic and National resonator guitar to the otherwise largely solo tracks. His musical restraint and ability to let the spaces remain open adds to the album's sonic power. With her voice, guitar and little else Caroline Herring delivers a powerful musical statement that defines not only her own artistry, but also how much folk music has changed in the last forty years.