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Like an old country song

The story of Thad Cockrell and Caitlin Cary's duets album

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Thad and Caitlin, Roman Candle By chris parker "We met because he came up to me while I was waiting tables and handed me a tape and said 'listen to this,' and I thought [sarcastically], 'Oh, yeah, I'll be sure to do that.' But I did listen to it and I was impressed right away. And he and I slowly became friends," says Tres Chica's Caitlin Cary, recalling the first time she met Thad Cockrell. "At some point along that way we started fantasizing about making a duets album, and it's taken this long to get around to a place where both of us have time to do it." The two had been writing songs here and there for a while. Some of them, including "Please Break My Heart" and "Thick Walls Down," found their way onto Cary's solo albums, because as Cary says, "I couldn't wait to have the world hear those songs."

Writing with someone is one of Cary's favorite things, and writing with Cockrell produced songs that were much different than she'd have written alone.

"They're pretty plain-spoken songs. That's one of the things I love about working with Thad--all the compulsion to be literary gets thrown out the window, because he writes such great, straightforward country songs in plain language," she says.

Last fall, Cockrell and Cary finally got together and started recording in Nashville with a number of notable session players (as well as Logan Matheny from Roman Candle).

"It's so funny to discover that when you go to Nashville you run into the guy who wrote 'Private Eyes' or the guy who had to dye his hair blue and paint his skin dark to be in Cameo," Cary says. "We had Pat Buchanan, who has this long, storied career including having played with Cameo and Cyndi Lauper, and this great pedal steel player, Pete Finney. Both of them were real country guys in a big part of their hearts and were real excited because we were tracking pretty much live. The pedal steel player was particularly thrilled because he doesn't get to do much of that working in Nashville."

The album, entitled Begonias, is due out on Yep Roc in mid-June.

But this is not the only good news for Cary. She and the rest of the Chicas will be going to London to record their next album with Neil Brockbank (Nick Lowe, Bryan Ferry), who recorded last year's Geraint Watkins album, Dial 'W' for Watkins, on Yep Roc. The opportunity arose after the Chicas opened for Watkins at his CD release party at The Pour House last year.

"They kind of got charmed by the Chicas. We took them out drinking afterwards and showed them they couldn't drink us under the table, and talked a lot about making music and records," Cary says. "Talk about organic approach. I think that basically everything will be cut live, singing into the same mic. We're going to make an intimate album, and I'm looking forward to playing with these terrific players. Lynn and I are writing songs right now, but we get to certain point and go, 'You know, this is done enough. We'll just give it to Geraint and see what he comes up with.'"

For his own part, Matheny from Roman Candle reports the Begonias sessions were something of a nerve-racking experience, working with such seasoned players.

"We'd be sitting there and I'd be studying the song, because I'm like, 'I don't want to be the guy that misses the chorus.' And they're not even listening, they're talking amongst themselves, and I'm thinking they're going to miss the chorus but in reality, we go to do the take and I miss the chorus. Everybody stops and I'm still banging away," Matheny laughs.

Matheny wasn't busy with only the Cary/Cockrell album. He, his brother Skip and the rest of Roman Candle also finished up work on their Hollywood Records debut, The Wee Hours Revue. The album--which re-records their 2002 debut, Say Pop, on little indie Outlook Records (run by Denver Broncos lineman Trevor Pryce)--was cited recently by Chris Stamey as one of the favorite albums he's worked on.

Matheny suggests the album's long gestation was due to a variety of factors.

"There were a lot of things we were getting used to--one was working with a producer, the other was trying to figure out what exactly it was we were trying to do with this record," he says. "Hollywood Records wanted us to re-record [the debut], and we were kind of fighting against it. To re-record every track on the album and put it out the same? It seems like you'd want to make it worthwhile to the people that have the first one. So I think that's why it kind of took a long time. The other reason is just because we were all out of town a lot."

They've added three new songs to the mix and reworked the rest, as well as adding the fine production of Stamey. But even as they ready for the album's release, they're torn about what to do next--an EP or LP.

"We're ready to move on. I think we might go for another long play. But one thing we worry about is a lot of people have been looking for this new record since they knew we started recording it in the summer of 2003, and I'd like to get them as much new material as soon as possible," Matheny says.

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