On the surface, there is very little about country music that would seem at all relevant to what life in New York is supposed to be about. We typically view it not as the soundtrack to an all-night party at some white-hot new space, but to some tasteless, white trash gathering after a NASCAR event. And we’re at least half right. Because while our perception of what it is is undoubtedly a bit off, we know exactly what it’s not. And, for better or worse, for most of us, that’s more than enough.
But country music is also the most popular genre in the US, other than hip-hop. And no, it’s not because the rest of the country is full of idiots. It’s because every single person, young and old, experiences heartbreak, which is precisely what country music is all about. If you think about it, that’s also precisely what life in New York City is about. Forget that nasty break-up or friends you lost for whatever reason; think about the daily heartbreaks — the cab you had stolen from you by that asshole, the packed, steamy train that got stuck just outside your station. Hang around here for a few weeks, and that’s the kind of shit that really gets inside your head and makes getting out of bed just a little more difficult each day. And it’s the kind of shit that should allow us, the most cynical group of people on Earth, to relate to records like Begonias, by Caitlin Cary and Thad Cockrell.
Known primarily as one of Ryan Adams’ cohorts in Whiskeytown, Cary has a voice, like all the great country voices, that can make even the most inconsequential setback feel like the one that just might do you in for good. And paired with Cockrell, who — let’s get this out of the way now —does sound a little bit like Adams, her crooning is given the context it needs to shine. That context, of course, is one of the most tried and true musical formats: the country duet, where a man and woman trade verses about everything that’s gone wrong. The opener, ‘Two Different Things’, is a perfect example, as is ‘Warm and Tender Love’. In fact, most of it fits that mold nicely, but on the tracks where they break away from this traditional style by turning the volume knob up, they tend to lose us. The more upbeat ‘Party Time’ and ‘Don’t Make it Better’ wind up sounding a bit too hokey, which is a quality we most definitely cannot identify with. Here’s a thought, though: maybe we should try to. Because after all that heartache, even New Yorkers need to have a good laugh every now and then.