Rhythm & Views

Caitlin Cary and Thad Cockrell

Thad Cockrell's clear tenor breaks and cracks, raspy and real. Caitlin Cary's silky alto floats around and through it, like oil on troubled waters. This duo promises to "put the hurt back into country," and it delivers.

The two met years ago through Cary's husband, Skillet Gillmore, an original member of Whiskeytown with Cary and Ryan Adams. Many back-porch sessions ensued, and two of their collaborations surfaced on Cary's acclaimed solo albums. The memorable Begonias was only a matter of time.

Apart from the Whiskeytown-esque "Section Option," Begonias songs are expressions classic, country turnaround tales of love and heartache, especially heartache. Many invoke the era of the great country duos, but arrangements reflect influences of the decades since. Each offers surprises. "Two Different Things" (i.e. "What you want / and what I am / are ...") employs a weeping organ where you might expect pedal steel. "Please Break My Heart" features sliding vocals reminiscent of Patsy Cline, but in a pop-soul setting with a little Hawaiian flavor. The scuffling shuffle, "Don't Make It Better," spanks the pedal steel.

The occasional organ in these arrangements is a tip-off to this pair's uniquely soulful quality. They give their hand away entirely with a stunning cover of the Percy Sledge hit "Warm and Tender Love." It makes you understand what all their country characters are yearning for.

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