RRI Box 10
Thetford Center, Vermont 05075-9701
A review written for the Folk and Music Exchange
by Paula Gregorowicz
"Count me in as a big fan." That's what I have to say after listening to Caroline Aiken's Butler Field, my first exposure to Aiken and her music. In a time when so many CDs sound the same, Aiken's variety of styles on Butler Field is a breath of fresh air. With a soulful voice and a fine range, she takes the listener from edgy to electric, from erotic to tender and introspective, and back again seamlessly.
Butler Field features nine songs, seven of which are Aiken's (including three on which lyrics were co-written with R. Hayes). The production, by Murray Krugman along with associate producers Aiken and Charles Eller, is crisp. They capture the mood of each song "just right"--from the sparseness of Aiken's piano and vocals on Hotel at Highway One and The Heart of Knowing to the full sound of Good Intentions, which comes complete with electric guitar, bass, and drums.
The title track, Butler Field, has an almost spiritual quality about it. On the surface, it is a song about an old childhood softball field, but it is far more than that. It is about a place firmly embedded in Aiken's childhood memories. She explains in the liner notes, "Butler Field is the culmination and resolve of all these years and experiences. I come full circle and embrace the place I love and left so long ago." Aiken is joined on this song by Emily Saliers (guitar, vocals) and Amy Ray (vocals) of the Indigo Girls. The harmonies are exquisite--Aiken's voice blends beautifully with the unmistakable voices of Saliers and Ray.
I was just totally blown away by the passion in the vocals and lyrics of The Heart of Knowing and Hotel at Highway One. Both of these songs feature Aiken's powerful vocals and piano, reminding me of the impact of Carole King with the smoothness of Cris Williamson. The Heart of Knowing hit me in the gut on first listen and knocks me off my feet each time I hear it. Aiken writes in the liner notes that this song is her personal view of the honesty of love. It's one of those songs that miraculously puts words to the feelings we each feel deep within. Hotel at Highway One is about stopping at a hotel along life's journey to reflect on loving, losing, and learning life's lessons and seeing clearly the path taken and the road THAT LIES AHEAD. My favorite lyric from the song is--"You don't appreciate laughter, until you know about the crying. Now I welcome the new light, as I welcome today's sun."
Ground Zero is about "religion and history versus the truth and personal responsibility." With a cool alternative tuning, smooth vocals, and challenging lyrics, Aiken's performance on this song reminds me a bit of Joni Mitchell on Turbulent Indigo. For me, at least, Ground Zero is one of those songs that finds you just when you need it. Ground Zero affirms how it is everyone's personal responsibility to determine his or her own truth. Each person needs to find and define his or her own connection to Ground Zero--no one else can decide for you no matter how many times others rewrite the Bible or change the history books.
Aiken branches out into some rock and groove on Good Intentions, Love Ain't Going Nowhere, and Movin' On. James "Mo" Moore wrote Movin' On and provides the electric guitar on Movin' On" and Good Intentions. Tony Markellis lends a groovy bass line on Love Ain't Going Nowhere.
You may find yourself a little hot under the collar when you listen to Left Wet, a very erotic tune. That's What I Heard shows a melancholic side to Aiken playing acoustic guitar and telling a true story about love that "could've been."
List of songs (written by C. Aiken except where noted):
Edited by Jim Dubinsky