DEER CREEK CANYON
The coolest part of loving music and searching for music and collecting vinyl records today is that perfect record that’s out there, hiding, waiting to be found. The search for new artists and new releases is endless, which is also really cool because why be obsessed by that which is easily found? It’s the restless search for the next one, the next perfect record. I sometimes go weeks or months without finding something truly special. But then, when it happens, it really happens! That magical moment of connection I’ve been searching for, waiting for, longing for, arrives, and everything changes. It’s like a flash of thunder, when you find a new record that instantly goes into your soul and becomes part of you.
That’s what music should be about. It’s the most perfect feeling, finding an artist who does that for me. And this is the record of the moment for me: Sera Cahoone’s new “Deer Creek Canyon” from SubPop. I’m letting you know now, this will be an over-the-top rave review of an amazing record and a gifted artist. You can totally stop reading now and buy the record, if you want. I must be honest and say that I didn’t know Cahoone’s work before this record, and now I must search out all of her recordings, and all the recordings of every band she’s ever been associated with. If you’ve known about her work for years, you’re a genius. I’m serious, you should be writing music reviews.
Until now I didn’t know anything about Cahoone, or that Cahoone was in Carissa’s Wierd (yes, that’s spelled correctly), the creative Indie band from Seattle that broke up in 2003. How did I miss her? Her performing life and songwriting have been associated, in one way or another, with bands and artists like Carissa’s Wierd, Band of Horses, Son Volt, Fruit Bats, Ben Gibbard, Jay Farrar, even Okkervil River and Lucinda Williams. Cahoone is a gifted guitar player and songwriter who has contributed to several records. (If you don’t know about Carissa’s Wierd’s “They’ll Only Miss You When You Leave: Songs 1996-2003,” check it out.) I read somewhere that Carissa’s Wierd bought back the rights to their older records, and new releases have been promised, so maybe we’ll see new vinyl records from their back catalog soon. We can hope.
But for now, we have Cahoone’s third solo release, “Deer Creek Canyon.” As I said, this is a perfect record; all 12 tracks are great. Her voice is strong and sweet and drives the movement of this record. Her band, long-term live players with Cahoone, has the perfect mix of skill and restraint and balance. They play together on this record with the natural style and presence of people who read each other very well. Jason Kardong’s (Son Volt) pedal steel gives many of the songs a floating, dreamlike, sad feeling, without overpowering the feeling of place and introspection. Cahoone’s lyrics are stylish and unforced. I wish I could have been in the studio (Woodinville’s Bear Creek Studios) to see this record made. It feels almost like a live ensemble performance. Nothing is added that isn’t needed. It’s precise and rich and balanced, nothing overdone or over emphasized.
Every song on “Deer Creek Canyon” feels intimate, and the record unfolds like a personal memory or journal entry carrying a lot of emotion and honesty, told by someone comfortable sharing the painful details of her life, sometimes in very small spaces, sometimes heartbreakingly personal. My favorite tracks are “Worry All Your Life,” “Naked,” “Rumpshaker,” and “Shakin’ Hands.” But the perfect track you can play over and over will be “And Still We Move.” Not a misplaced word or note or feeling, this is a perfect song, in meaning and pace. (I warned you this would be a rave!) There’s a lot of heartache in all these songs, but in that way, they speak to our weary world. There’s also tenderness, with a whisper saying “Don’t worry about being out of step with the times, we all are.” But then, in almost every song, there’s also the feeling that we should just do what we need to do. There’s a lot to be distracted by. We’ve all felt a rising sense of loss in modern life (you’ve read that in my reviews before), the loss of authenticity in friendships, relationships, employment, and even music. This record signals that real is still out there, that it’s coming back, evidenced in this one song, in this one record.
There are so many memorable lines in these songs that I would have to reprint the entire liner notes to do justice to each one. And I couldn’t copy out one song and not reprint them all. It’s faster if you just buy the record. Every song sparkles with tenderness, emotion, and intelligence. Every song is crafted for mood and meaning. Every song provides a perfect moment.
This is a finely produced record by an artist and a band who know how to make a lo-fi slow burner for the ages. This is a record for the blood. There’s a feeling of intimacy throughout, like sitting in a small club in Seattle listening to a quiet set of songs late at night. Play this record over and over. Feel it. It will make you feel great, I promise.