Caitlin Rose – Live at Academy 3, Manchester 12/03/2011

Review by Lara Williams

Academy 3 Manchester is in alcohol slicked high spirits, though the sort that could end in a drunken sing-song with a ephemeral best friend or spirited scrap outside the men’s toilets, depending entirely on whether somebody steps on your shoes or not. And they’re not sure what to make of the strange American lady with the funny voice. 

Persistent heckles are emphatically Junior School goading – pinching the girl you fancy on the arm instead of telling her she’s pretty. Caitlin Rose seems to take it in the almost good humour it is intended, and seems comfortable and relaxed. 

Eschewing the alt-country flim-flam or MOR big ballad warblings of her Nashville cohorts: Caitlin Rose is firmly old school, spinning ditties Emmylou Harris and June Carter Cash wouldn’t be ashamed to intone. The sort of thing She&Him could (and should) be doing if Zooey Deschanel ever found a pair.

Weighing heavily on 2010’s Own Side Now album  – ‘Sinful Wishing Well’ is delivered with the voice-cracking emotion it’s owed and ‘Things Change’ is departed with big-sister know how. Caitlin Rose has a sort of sororal presence, gently teasing her hirsute, Joshua Tree backing boys and making goofy faces at the audience.    

Drink proves a reoccurring motif throughout her lyrics prompting Rose to loudly pronounce rumours about her being an alcoholic as “dumb”. Which obviously they are: Who the hell ever heard of teetotal country? Who would even want to? Her songs are all pretty sad – and she’s quite the story teller – imparting her heartache with brave face honesty and a plucky sense of humour. You get the impression she’s the kinda gal to wish you all the best to your face before treating the local karaoke bar to a boozed-up rendition of You Oughta Know.

Elegiac, longing and regretful lyrics are all the darker for the sweet melodies they’re wrapped up in – though disappointingly linger a little standard. Like a former ugly duckling who hasn’t noticed she’s grown boobs and gotten super hot, you kind of get the impression Caitlin Rose has so long identified as the sad country songstress, she’s not really sure where else to go. Quick witted, bewitchingly engaging and anything but standard – if only she would wipe off the valiant smile, dispense with the jokey repartee and show us what she’s got.

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