Singer-songwriter Caleb Caudle made his new album, Forsythia (out Oct. 7 on Soundly Music), at the Cash Cabin in Tennessee, along with an all-star cast of instrumentalists and singers. Among them: Jerry Douglas, Elizabeth Cook, Carlene Carter, Sam Bush. It would be hard to convene such folks in such a place and not come out with an excellent recording. As a result, it is perhaps Caudle’s finest work yet—a memoir of sorts, set to music.
Indeed, with John Carter Cash producing, Caudle leaned into the stories in his songs. His country-tinged vocals are clearly at the fore, with their thoughtful, poetic lyricism.
The title track comes at three songs in, and with it comes what Caudle has called the most autobiographical song he’s ever written. He weaves a story of a simple childhood in a small town. “It all made sense,” he sings in the refrain. “It was all I knew. Bright as a forsythia bush in bloom.”
“Crazy Wayne” uses close harmonies and Bush’s tinkling mandolin to tell the story of a man whose life has been spiraling out of control. “Tears of Savannah” is a heartfelt wish for healing and transcendence (“May you find true understanding. May the whispers of the night be less demanding.”)
“Texas Tea” is an easy, rocking highlight, with its mandolin-and-fiddle dialogue, Douglas’s short but powerful solos, and the lyrics’ dire narrative. “Some places are worth leaving, some mountains are worth climbing,” Caudle sings. “Some love is worth finding.”
The ruminative, autobiographical disc ends with “Red Bank Road,” a thoughtful songwriter-esque bit of poetry. It is the song that makes sense of it all, the moment of catharsis. “It’s easy to forget where you come from when the smoke and lights start to leave you numb,” he sings. And then, one guesses, there are moments where you sit and watch a bird fly, and remember how you used to feel about the forsythia in April.
Forsythia is available HERE.