Caitlin Cary finds her voice

In a New York Daily News article last month, singer/fiddler Caitlin Cary had some unusually candid things to say about her former Whiskeytown bandmate Ryan Adams, whose latest solo album — the expertly pleasurable Gold — helped hurl him onto A-lists everywhere. (A recent People article showed him keeping company with Bob Dylan at a post-Oscars party.)

“He would get drunk and decide to throw a show and I was left on stage to [apologize] to the audience,” Cary told writer Jim Farber. “He always had some kind of punk logic to it that would kind of make sense. But I felt like the cleanup crew.”

With her debut full-length solo CD, While You Weren’t Looking (Yep Roc, 2002), the Raleigh-based Cary has crafted another kind of comeback — but this one is delivered via her icepick-precise singing and deliciously minor-key songwriting aesthetic.

If Gold is on fire, then Cary’s record smolders like a cigarette dropped on an antique sofa. With refreshing emotional intelligence, she avoids the confessional mode to tell such bittersweet stories as “What Will You Do?” (about a relationship that’s souring over one partner’s self-destruction).

In one of many noteworthy achievements, “Sorry” — which first appeared on Cary’s 2000 EP, Waltzie — manages to simultaneously be the album’s most oblique and immediate offering. “You are a jack o’ lantern/Who woke up on a bitter winter morn/With your skin soft and sallow/Your short season has now come and gone,” Cary mourns. She could be addressing a spurned lover, a wronged child or neither. The toll of loss is what’s clear.

Meanwhile, if justice prevails, While You Weren’t Looking should mark the onset of Cary’s season in the sun.


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