Noting the resemblance of a rootsy Carolina singer-songwriter to Ryan Adams is awfully easy, but for Caleb Caudle, it's awfully appropriate. Raised in Winston-Salem, Caudle has cited Whiskeytown as his gateway from punk to country. Early in his solo career, his songs occasionally featured harmonies from Caitlin Cary. But while Caudle's previous work was derived from Whiskeytown's twang, his latest full-length, Crushed Coins, sounds more like a lost album from Adams's Cardinals catalog.
Once again working with longtime collaborator Jon Ashley—who has engineered albums for The War on Drugs and Hiss Golden Messenger—Caudle's songs are painted with an expanded sonic palette. Megan McCormick's varied, imaginative electric guitar textures often highlight the arrangements, with refined touches of cello and keys providing lush support alongside doses of fiddle and pedal steel.
Crushed Coins is nothing if not consistent. Each of the eleven tracks has a solid hook, though there's no single standout among them. This suggests that Caudle designed the album to slowly worm its way into memory with its lyrical rewards as much as its melodic merits. Fortunately, Caudle has a way with words that'll resonate whether one shares his Southern upbringing or his familiarity with the big city. He juxtaposes the enormity and anonymity a metropolis can provide in "NYC in the Rain" ("If there's a lady more lonely/I don't know her name") against the rural imagery of "Headlights" ("Cicadas are just singing like a choir") on back-to-back cuts.
Caudle is most relatable when he infuses his warm voice with a romanticism that's alternately hopeful and bittersweet. Take the winning couplet from "Stack of Tomorrows" ("Stacking up tomorrows with you/until my last days are through") and fast-forward to the heartbreaking "Six Feet from the Flowers," in which the narrator aches for the partner that passed before him. "I will wear your favorite shirt/And bring your dancing shoes/I'm just waiting on the day/That I can be there, too," Caudle sings. The pain in his voice channels the experiences and emotions of a much older, wiser family member rather than a single influential songwriter.