September 29, 2012 6:14:36 PM
Jan Swoope - [email protected]
From the opening track of "Camilla," Caroline Herring's sixth and latest commercial album, the Canton native proves why she's considered one of the most literate and insightful singer/songwriters recording today.
The Columbus Arts Council presents the respected artist in a solo performance in the Rosenzweig Arts Center Omnova Theater Thursday, Oct. 4, at 7 p.m.
Herring, who now makes her home near Atlanta, began singing professionally while a graduate student at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at Ole Miss. She co-founded Thacker Mountain Radio, the popular literary and musical hour broadcast from Square Books in Oxford and syndicated on Mississippi Public Radio.
"Having Caroline come to Columbus to perform for the Golden Triangle has been something we've wanted to do for a long time," said Columbus Arts Council Program Manager Beverly Norris. "We're so pleased that all the stars finally lined up for that to happen."
Herring's haunting voice and story-songs have earned a devoted following. Her debut album, "Twilight," brought her the 2001-2002 Best New Artist title from the South by Southwest (SXSW) Austin Music Awards. In 2012, Texas Music magazine named "Twilight" in its Top 50 Essential Texas Albums list.
In 2003, her song "Mistress" was listed by the Atlantic Journal Constitution as one of the Top 100 Songs About the South. In April 2012, Texas Music included "Mistress" in its 2012 listing of the Top 50 Classic Texas Songs.
She has been profiled on NPR's "All Things Considered," been a guest on Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion," and was the only American on the prestigious Cecil Sharp Project, a group of musicians commissioned in England to compose music inspired by the life of the famous British song catcher. It culminated in a "Best Album" award from Songlines magazine in 2011.
"Caroline's voice reminds me of Joan Baez, so strong and vibrant," said Steve Ellis, general manager of WMSV 91.1 radio out of Starkville. "Her songs are so simple and clean, and each one tells a story that stands on its own."
In "Camilla," Herring explores some of the darker aspects of Southern history and culture, especially in the title track and in "White Dress." Both weave powerful lyrics rooted in the civil rights movement. Her "Traveling Shoes" was inspired by Eudora Welty's short story, "A Worn Path."
Five-time Grammy winner Mary Chapin Carpenter contributes vocals on the album.
"As a singer, Caroline Herring's distinctively beautiful voice sets her apart. And her songwriting is just as distinctive ... As a witness, a historian, a truth teller, a gypsy, a mother, a sister, a lover, she takes the listener on a journey with her head and her heart, and there is no more enlightening experience one could have," Carpenter said of the album.
Herring, a former high school English and history teacher, counts among her musical influences her parents' Newport Folk Festival records.
"That's how I learned about Mississippi John Hurt," she said. Another inspiration has been Lucinda Williams.
" ... I poured over Oxford American's first music issue CD, with Lucinda's 'Pineola,' and Steve Forbert's 'It Sure Was Better Back Then,' and Kate Campbell's 'When Panthers Roamed in Arkansas.' These were my people," she stated.
On Thursday, Herring's Golden Triangle audience will experience a few of the stories for themselves.
As reviewer Kim Ruehl wrote for FolkAlley.com, " ... These are just stories about real people struggling, failing, succeeding, and just getting by -- the kinds of songs Woody Guthrie might be writing these days, in other words."
How to go
Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 at the door, at the Rosenzweig Arts Center, 501 Main St. Or order by phone by calling 662-328-2787 (ARTS). Seating is limited; advance tickets are recommended.
The concert is sponsored by Golden Triangle Radiology, Clark Beverage Group, Mitchell Distributing, Wingate Inn and WMSV 91.1 Radio.
WMSV recently featured Herring's "Camilla" on the "3 O'clock Saturday" program.
For more information about other CAC events and exhibits, visit columbus-arts.org.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.