By: Dennis Cook
38 minutes is pretty fast to fall in love but Sera Cahoone's Only As The Day Is Long (released March 18 on Sub Pop) may have that effect. For some it might happen in the first minutes of opener "You Might As Well," a slice of elemental backwoods folk that's as invigorating as open sky and clean air on a country mile stroll. For others it may be the brittle humanity of the title cut that finishes the job. The clouds darken along stretches where we feel "the best is already done" but Cahoone has a way of bringing us around, and not with some lil' old ant high hopes hooey either. This is quiet, powerful hope you tuck into a locket near your heart to peek at when it all seems a bit too much. Life is fucking hard. Cahoone gets that yet manages to pull a crooked smile from the debris.
It's a long way still until tomorrow
All my insecurities are breaking me up inside
Light another cigarette
My eyes are on fire
That gray cloud mindset is followed by the believable cheer of "Runnin' Your Way," where she enthuses, "You got so much left in you for the big ol' world to see." The easy comparison is Gillian Welch – and there is some of Welch's strum and thump to Cahoone – but the jaundiced eye she exhibits on "Shitty Hotel" and "The Colder The Air" recalls early Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders) or Ray Davies (The Kinks) dropped into the middle of clean acoustic picking, aching pedal steel, blood warm harmonies and ringing banjo. Loaded names all but Cahoone inspires big praise. This is only her second solo album – she's drummed for Band of Horses, Patrick Park and Carissa's Weird - and it arrives with great self-possession and a measured heaping of weary feeling. Only someone who understands the low lands like Cahoone can help draw us out of our own shattered geography, taking us by our "tired, empty hands" and leading us out of Golgotha. If we don't end up in paradise, well, how many people do?
Both intimate and expansive, Only As The Day Is Long is one of those records that once encountered can endure forever in one's private stash, a desert island disc one keeps in easy reach. I'm already thinking of stacking this one next to lifesavers like Jackson Browne's Late For The Sky and Neal Casal's The Sun Rises Here. The material is top flight and accentuated beautifully by an artfully restrained ensemble that truly serve the songs and Cahoone's toasted honey drawl well. If the right ears pick up on a shimmering jewel like "You're Not Broken," Cahoone could be the next Ray LaMontagne, though what makes her so appealing is how comfortable she is in her own skin. Cahoone doesn't seem to want to be anyone else at all.
JamBase | Seattle
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