For her fourth CD, returning to basics in a fashion that might be called almost shocking for its capture of the essence of the inflamed sensitivities which ignited the beginnings of the modern folk movement, Caroline Herring has released Golden Appples of the Sun. The press has for some time now strongly compared her to Mitchell, Baez, and Collins, allusions that are entirely apt, but I also hear traces of Mimi Farina, Tom Jans (a sometime Farina collaborator), Buffy Saint-Marie, Sandy Denny, Robbie Robertson, and Melanie Safka in both her voice and materials.
Choosing a reflection of Bradbury's collection of short stories—Golden Apples of the Sun, itself titled after a verse from Yeats' Song of the Wandering Aengus, set to music here by Herring—harbors a great mirror. Bradbury's famed for his dusky semi-allegorical style, a mode that seems perpetually set to paper in late afternoon, and Herring's CD has that exact same feel (and it should be noted that Yeats' poem is so influential that the line just before it, "The silver apples of the moon" served as inspiration for Morton Subotnick's famed neoclassically electronic Silver Apples of the Moon). But Herring is a devotee of literature and the arts, and that too shows well in her own words, tapping into deeper wellsprings:
Abuelita underneath the trees
…(from Abuelita) or, in a line worthy of quoting near and far: "All of mankind stands there / Barely awake" (Tales of the Islanders). The instruments surrounding her stanzas are stripped down, just Herring (vocals, guitar, banjo) and producer David Goodrich (everything else except Ann Castro's backing vox on one cut, and Goodrich also produced Chris Smither's wondrously gritty new marvel—here), firmly in Joni's pre-Court and Spark period, the era when the 60s took matters in hand, affirming the past while transcending it.
The time is precisely right for this kind of album. After so much progress and blinding speed in the last two decades, we need a breather, a contemplation of where we came from and why it set off such a welter of creativity, lest we lose the path a trifle too easily. Golden Apples provides that respite and retrospective, underscoring the rich heritage of days when, lacking (or in spite of) sophisticated technologies, times demanded more from what hands, voice, heart, and brain could craft.
And the packaging itself is likewise elegant, a letterpress cardboard container (yay! minimum plastic!) harking back to more innocent times and less complicated ways.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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