Caitlin Rose, The Stand-In

Stephen M. Deusner

By Stephen M. Deusner

on 03.05.13 in Reviews

Given her avowed love of old Hollywood glamour (just check out that album cover), the title of Caitlin Rose’s sophomore full-length likely refers to the 1937 backlot comedy The Stand-In, about a love triangle between the title character, a hapless number cruncher and a hopeless film producer. While Rose does write about similar romantic confusions, the film reference nevertheless comes across as false modesty: On these dozen songs, she emerges as a confident, distinctive pop-country artist with a biting lyrical style and a smart way with a hook. Perhaps A Star Is Born sounded too cocky?

Emerging as a confident, distinctive pop-country artist

Like any good actress, Rose has impressive range. The Stand-In has roots in classic country, displaying the poise of Tammy Wynette on “Everywhere I Go” and the assertiveness of Loretta Lynn on “Waitin’.” Standout “Golden Boy” casts her as a countrypolitan chanteuse against a widescreen arrangement that recalls Owen Bradley, and she turns that chorus into a gently devastating plea: “Golden boy, don’t go away/ I won’t ask you what you’re here for/ If you stay.” Occasionally she holds her twang in check, but for the most part her vocals are expressive, building from the conspiratorial whisper of “When I’m Gone” to the full-throated belt of “Only a Clown.”

Rarely reverent to one style or genre, The Stand-In mixes country with classic rock, radio pop, and even speakeasy jazz on closer “Old Numbers.” The rollicking Hank- and Tennessee Williams-inspired “Menagerie” and first single “Only a Clown” both hinge on Byrds-style guitar riffs that suggest an affinity for West Coast nuggets, and the Las Vegas-set “Pink Champagne” is debauched country folk, a sad-eyed and slightly sloshed reimagining of Gram Parsons’s “Sin City.” No matter how blue she sounds, there’s always a lively hint of humor even in her despair — a distinguishing trait that suggests she may be ready for her close-up.