John Prine may have passed away last year, and Guy Clark four years before him, but their influences live on and nowhere is that more apparent than on Carolina Child, the latest from New Orleans (by way of North Carolina) artist Ric Robertson.
The 10-track album is an exercise in breezy folk, Americana creativity that catches easily on the first play through. It’s a stunning dip into pretension-free music that also slips in a little jazz and New Orleans swamp funk at times. But it’s the lyrics, with a sly nod to Prine’s genuine, often humorous take on life, where Robertson really shines.
The steady opening track “Getting Over Our Love” is a fantastic prelude to what follows, a seemingly congenial break-up song that nearly belies the true heartache behind it; deep lyrics hidden behind a smile and a contagious singalong. Elsewhere, “I Don’t Mind” sounds like a long-lost Leon Russell gem and “Sycamore Hill” is a trippy, acoustic funk earwig filled with reverb and echoes that stays with you long after you’ve stopped listening (which is definitely not a complaint!). The music video for “Sycamore Hill” is filled with puppets – another hobby of Robertson – making this already great song that much more enjoyable. The half-smoked joint and cans of Modelo in the video make it almost certain Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, the one-time Muppets house band, are hanging out at Robertson’s pad.
Carolina Child was produced by Dan Molad of Lucius, and Robertson brought in about a dozen buddies and fellow musicians, including Oliver Wood from the Wood Brothers and Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig from Lucius, to help fill out the sound. The result is simply impressive. The album closes on “Julie,” a sweet, slow track that stands out for sounding unlike all those that precede it. Different, but just as compelling as the rest of the record and a sign of Robertson’s depth as a songwriter.
Photo credit: Gina Leslie