There’s something about the way Caroline Herring delivers a line like, “Mama, sweet mama, where are you going with all your babies and that casserole?” Indeed, this is the opening line of “Camilla” – the title track on her new album – and it sets the tone and scene for the rest of the exquisitely written songs included therein. You know even as she’s delivering that line, this isn’t just a single song. This is a world in which women know they must take a casserole with them when they’re trying to appeal to justice. (The next line: “I’m going to the jailhouse in Camilla, Georgia, to see a woman and ask for her parole.”)
You can listen to Camilla in the same way you might drive through such a town. If you’re just passing by, it comes off as a pretty little thing. Sure, it has its imperfections, but it’s not unlike a number of other small towns through which you might pass.
But, dive in, and you’ll be endeared by women taking casseroles to the jailhouse, little girls chasing fireflies even as tradition gets destroyed around them, people singing “This Land Is Your Land”, people lamenting about their hard summer. It’s a difficult world in Herring’s Camilla (a real town, mind you, just south of Albany, GA, with a population of 5,669).
According to the songs, race relations there are tenuous at best, but the characters here maintain a certain level of defiance and hope. By the end of the disc, they’ve come to the conclusion that “Joy Never Ends”.
Granted, Camilla isn’t presented as a folk opera. It’s quite possible some of these songs are about different places and things (the 3,000,000 people afraid to share their name in “Maiden Voyage,” for example, are clearly not all in Camilla, GA). But the themes consistently tie back to the South, the small towns, the places where people “fight to keep on living” (as they do in “Until You Go”), despite inequity and other barriers we create for each other for no legitimate discernible reason.
As topical as the songs come off, these aren’t protest songs in the history of protest music. 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.
**Click HERE to order Camilla from Signature Sounds!**