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Black Mountain Lullaby

Catching Up With Caroline Herring

By Jim Caligiuri, 3:45PM, Wed. Sep. 12, 2012

Black Mountain Lullaby
photo by Tom Fahey

If you got to Austin after 2003 and don’t have a taste for folk music, you probably don’t remember Caroline Herring. In 2001, her sparkling debut Twilight made her a local darling, and landed the singer-songwriter a Best New Artist plaque at the 2002 Austin Music Awards.

Then she moved to Atlanta, married, started a family, and for a while stopped making music.

“It took me a while to find my footing after Austin,” she admits. “About five years ago, everything kind of jelled with me again. I’d been doing a lot of writing and [record label] Signature Sounds picked me up. That’s when Lantana came out.

“It feels like two careers. I’ve definitely tried to make up for lost time.”

Herring returns to Austin Friday for both a 5pm in-store at Waterloo Records and an appearance at the Cactus Cafe later that evening. She’s promoting a new disc, Camilla, and as with all her work, it’s charged literary folk music. This time there’s a sociopolitical aspect to it as well.

“At first I thought about doing an entire album on the civil rights movement,” she says. “Then I found out that was really hard. I couldn’t put together enough songs that were really good.

“So, my best efforts from that are on there.

“Then there’s ‘Black Mountain Lullaby,’ which is about a mountain top removal, and a mother and child tragedy outside Appalachia, Virginia. I’m little more attuned to stories of mothers these days. A lot of things I write about are from that perspective, at least historically.”

The only song she didn’t write on Camilla is “Flee As a Bird,” a hymn from the 1840s. Her 2009 release, Golden Apples of the Sun, was well received but very much a solo effort. Camilla, recorded in Nashville, possesses a fuller sound, perhaps as loud as Herring has ever been.

“I was ready to collaborate and did in every direction I could,” she explains. “[Golden Apples] was so quiet. I came out of it bursting to make some noise. So, in my own way, I did.”

She called up all sorts of friends including Mary Chapin Carpenter to provide background vocals and was even joined by another former Central Texan, bass player Bryn Davies (formerly Bright), who is now in Tennessee.

“Ten years ago, I played with Bryn every Thursday night at Stubb’s and paid her $20 a show,” Herring recalls. “Now she’s just toured Europe with Jack White.”

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