The restless Nashville pop of Caitlin Rose

Stone pony
By JONATHAN DONALDSON  |  November 3, 2011

SHUT UP AND PLAY “I feel like if you’re talking about your music too much you’re doing the wrong thing,” says Caitlin Rose. 

It's late Sunday afternoon and singer-songwriter Caitlin Rose is folding laundry and watching a movie on BET in her Nashville home. Last night her sister got married and Rose, 24, did the honors of putting together a cover band of '70s stoner-country tunes. "The funny thing is we weren't even stoned," says Rose. Now that's love and dedication.

This same love and dedication can be heard in the heartfelt melodies of Rose's country and folk-filled 2010 debut on 101 Distribution, Own Side Now (from which she'll perform tonight at the Paradise in a country twin bill with Hayes Carll). Unlike most debut albums, which offer a flicker of good things to come, Own Side Now is one of those rare debut long-players that arrives fully fledged.

The child of Nashville music veterans, Rose grew up in a household where country music wasn't in the air so much as it was the air itself. Rose herself hesitates to describe her music as country, even though the lavish pedal steel and coy strumming would tell you otherwise. "I'd only describe myself as country out of laziness and not really enjoying talking about it," says Rose, who says that, although she loves talking for hours about the music of others, she really doesn't like talking about her own music at all. "I feel like if you're talking about your music too much you're doing the wrong thing."

Rose was discovered on MySpace by a small British imprint, Name Records, following the release of her debut EP in 2008, Dead Flowers (BMI). Name signed her to a record deal — which explains, at least partially, why she first had a bigger following in England. In an unsurprisingly contrarian move, Rose turned then to Nashville "outlaw" Mark Nevers (Lambchop, Candi Staton, Silver Jews), who Rose describes as the fallen angel of Music Row. "He did a lot of work there for a really long time and then one day he just really got sick of it and built his own studio and did whatever he wanted. He's kind of a rebel in this town and I think that's why a lot of people like to work with him."

On a song like "Own Side," Rose strikes hard at the heartstrings in the manner of the McGarrigle Sisters or Linda Ronstadt. Elsewhere, she skips on big emotions right when you'd most expect them, as on "New York," a tongue-in-cheek, breezy talking blues about love and consequences in the big city. One could almost imagine one of Rose's heroes, John Prine, tapping his foot.

Rose accomplishes it by showing her heart completely. On "Learning to Ride," she sings: "When I was young used to ride the wild ones/They were lots of fun but they almost took my life." As with many moments on the record, "Learning to Ride" 's metaphors are so bald that the song makes you grateful that the singer didn't scrap them in the revision process. "I don't feel like you can outgrow a song," she says, reflecting on what she refers to as a nursery rhyme-like quality. "You just change it around or quit playing it."

Skeptical, logical, even weary-sounding in her answers, Rose is different than the sweeter person I had been led to expect by Own Side Now. Is there a lingering mistrust there for people in the music industry? "I have a mistrust for most people," Rose says.

CAITLIN ROSE + HAYES CARLL | Paradise Rock Club, 969 Comm Ave, Boston | November 3 @ 8 pm | 18+ | $16 | 617.562.8800

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