Review by Ellen Eldridge
As the chill in the air settles down over Atlanta, fans should carry enough change for a hot cocoa, invest in a flannel and a copy of Sera Cahoone’s Deer Creek Canyon because this daughter of a Colorado foothills salesman knows how to warm both the body and the mind. Cahoone’s third solo effort sees her exploring the emotions and ties to home—both in the sense of that place artists leave behind to tour and in the sense of inner soul-searching.
The packaging itself shows images of fallen trees on the backside, where the cover photograph offers a photograph of the slyly smiling songwriter sitting in the woods. The scene feels strangely uneasy as the twelve tracks play; looking over to the cover, the view of nature contrasts against the music to give off more of a feeling of longing.
Opening with “Worry All Your Life,” Deer Creek Canyon immediately tugs at heart strings with yearning and sighing sounds from Sarah Standard’s violin. Cahoone’s voice cascades alongside the strings soothingly as the songwriter sings out her questions of how to make peace instead of worrying in a world that continues to make its guest grow older. The central idea to the song—that worrying all your life is a waste of time—suitably introduces the album.
The title track then appears second on the album. “Deer Creek Canyon” tells its listeners that this place is where the songwriter comes from. It stands as a tribute to the Colorado roots growing up and around Cahoone’s spirit, at times weighing her down and pulling her back toward home and, at other times, encouraging her to go and explore the world. “For all the love I have here I needed to be on my own.”
Generally speaking, an artist’s third release really sets the mood for a career. This isn’t the introduction for fans that started with the debut and this isn’t the sophomore album proving the debut success wasn’t a fluke. The third release often encompasses those feelings of self-analysis where the artist questions whether or not this path will work out. Cahoone literally takes the path idea deep into the woods as she examines her origination and compares to where she sees herself. The way Deer Creek Canyon presents Cahoone’s transition allows for fans to relate on broad levels; we all question our decisions and how we choose to let our past lead us to our future.
“I get really homesick and think about moving back to Colorado,” Cahoone said. “But, I’ve matured a lot. I took a very long break to write this record. I didn’t care how long it took. Once these songs started coming together, I knew I wanted to take my time with this one. I wanted to get it right, focus more on production, and make sure all the sounds and vocals were pushed even higher.”
“Naked” showcases the quality in Cahoone’s voice that sharply recalls a particular female singer, but the memory comes hazily to my mind, so much so that for the life of me I cannot place the voice though it is definitely a direct connection. Synapses notwithstanding, Sera Cahoone asserts herself as a solidly talented songwriter who combines natural elements with her music. Banjo plucking melts into piano-driven melodies and throughout Deer Creek Canyon fans walk a path through examination of the world around them as well as within them. That aspect of soothing melody and soul-searching makes this release well worth the fall investment.
Get a copy of Sera Cahoone’s Deer Creek Canyon—may I suggest a physical copy—out on Sub Pop Records September 25.