Caleb has been a favorite of mine since I met him when John Moreland played my local. I wish I had given his previous albums, like Tobacco Town, some attention when they came out but the truth is I had never heard of him until he toured with Moreland. This kid is amazing live and I was posting his amazing lyrics to Facebook during his set because I was that impressed. Honestly he is someone who slipped through the cracks here at 9B and I am kind of embarrassed about that but I also aim to remedy the problem right now!
Today marks the release of his second solo album Paint Another Layer On My Heart and it’s Essential Listening. Now I know it’s almost traditional to wait until the end of the review to say that but I think it’s worth getting out of the way right now. When you listen to this record straight through you’ll see the painstaking care put in to every aspect of it all the way down to the track order. Yes, boys and girls, this is a real album in the sense that it all fits together and has a flow. From the opening line, “There’s a place no light creeps in…”, to the final strains of the slow burning “Come On October” every track transitions in to the next with seemingly effortless ease. I imagine that laying out the tracks for an album and getting it perfect requires a level of sheer bloody-mindedness that I don’t have but whose product I truly enjoy.
This is the first record since Caleb decided to tour full time and all that goes with that decision is evident on tracks like “Trade All The Lights” and “Missing Holidays”. The lyrics tug at your heart and if you’ve ever been on the road, away from the ones you love, be forewarned that they’re written well enough to bring back that feeling of lying in a Motel 6 bed, alone, and trying to force yourself to sleep. The real beauty here is in the carefully crafted lyrics and the scenes they paint and nothing less than a window in to a life being lived.
If you’ve read my reviews on artists that tour solo and record with a band you know that most of the time I prefer the stripped down stuff, and am not shy about being honest about it, but this may prove an exception to that rule. The musicians that provided backing are undeniably stellar. Roseland provided most of the backing, Whit Wright from American Aquarium held down the pedal steel, Greg Herndon played keys, and of course Caleb himself on the guitar. Now I won’t go so far as to say I prefer the album versions to the live versions of the ones I’ve heard but I will freely admit that I think they’re just as good. If you haven’t read a lot of my reviews let’s just say that, coming from me, that’s a pretty big deal.
Seriously folks Paint Another Layer On My Heart will be in the running for my personal favorite album of the year. Not that the competition won’t be pretty intense, at least in my head, but it definitely has a dog in the fight. If you’re a regular reader of 9 Bullets then there’s quite frankly no excuse for not having this record in your collection. I know that there are a lot good records out there right now and a lot more coming down the pipe but I have feeling this one will age well and be as good five or ten years down the road as it is today. I’ll leave you with the opening verse of my favorite track, “Come On October”…
Come on October make me a believer
Prove me wrong take away my fear
Take me out back and throw me in the gravel
Ask me how did I end up here
I wish more friends called to check in
I wish I checked in on more friends
We get lost in where we’re goin’
I can’t recall all of the places we’ve been