With this album created from stories and poems penned during a grand road trip across the United States, Caroline Rose has not held back in terms of her views on contemporary America she gathered along the way. The songs of America Religious, which Rose describes as “vignettes of American culture today”, range from jaunty Americana toe-tappin’, sometimes thigh-slappin’ country style melodies to heart-wringing moody blues delivered with husky tones of experience. Regardless of where each song falls within this range, the omnipotent force behind each one is Rose’s beautifully poetic lyrics.
The first line of the album, which is that of the title track, sets expectations high as following the inviting resonances of gently plucked guitar, sounding like one might be wandering aimlessly upon the start of a journey, Rose sings: “Sun beam patches, like lightning in my vision, stumbling trembling as a tremor in the depths beneath the trenches.” An eclectic mix of instruments kicks in, only to continue with catchy guitar riffs and charmingly befuddled organ in ‘This Is What Livin’ Feels Like’, as we are boldly introduced to various towns, people, views and experiences all in one three minute 45 second track.
The shift of tone that follows this strong start is unexpected and perhaps unwelcome, until the atmospheric, bluesy sound quickly succeeds in convincing you otherwise. ‘Roll On’ and ‘Here Come The Rain’ consist of gritty topics such as debt, religion and even suicide, allowing Rose to really pack a political punch.
A favourite track comes in the form of ‘Six Foot Woman’, an initially fast-paced song with heavy bass that introduces us to an empowered woman who is “queen of the streets / She be onto the next while he’s changing the sheets” (make of it what you will as to what her day job is), who seems in control and full of brash confidence. Just over two minutes in, the tempo slows entirely as the tone drops with, “Tryin’a put a saddle on my back / They keep tryin’a kill me, tryin’a guilt me,” and we realise as the music descends more slowly and melancholically that they’ve succeeded, and our six foot woman has ebbed away in a similar fashion. It really is astonishingly sad. The way the words are abandoned and the music is left to tell the rest of the story so powerfully is something quite special.
America Religious came to fruition through the funds of a hugely successful Kickstarter which made over $10,000. Rose and her musical partner of four years, Jer Coons, are calling it their ‘official debut’ following two previous studio albums. All this seems like quite a journey in itself, which combined with their rambles across Middle America has resulted in a record of spirited honesty that fans of great Americana will love.
Words by Jules Foreman