Caleb Caudle & the Bayonets – Snake River Canyon

January 01, 1970



Just under a year ago I reviewed Winston-Salem, NC, upstart
Caleb Caudle’s sophomore release, Stay On,
offering with undisguised enthusiasm, “The 22-year old sounds like he
stepped straight outta Lone Star territory, with jaw-droppingly fine songs
steeped in classic Earle, Ely, Clark, McMurtry and Van Zandt.” Admittedly,
first exposure to a fresh face can often be akin to a teenage crush, netting
breathless, hypercaffeinated praise from even the most jaded scribes. Musical
crushes are what got us started in this business, after all; they’re what we
live for.


Then I got to see Caudle this past December, and within the
space of a few songs I knew my initial hunch wasn’t wrong: this guy’s got the stuff. Backed by a gifted group of musicians (who
don’t so much wield bayonets as stealth daggers in their razor-sharp hooks and
ability to collectively shift rhythmic gears like a long-distance trucker), Caudle
exudes a natural, easy-going stage charisma that tugs the young ladies down
front even as the guys in the audience root for him.


Doesn’t hurt that he’s got some seriously fine tunes in his
back pocket.


On the brand new Snake
River Canyon
, cut at Asheville’s Echo Mountain Studios with engineer Jon
Ashley (Avett Brothers, Band of Horses), Caudle & Co. serve up a ten-song
musical travelogue par excellence, one that hangs together as such thanks to a
setlist-worthy sequencing sense – think how Tom Petty’s albums flow seamlessly,
with midtempo tunes easing into raveups and the intrasong dynamics serving to
keep the brain/ass function of rock ‘n’ roll lit up. Yet it’s perilously easy
to single out songs for the iPod generation, too. First track “So Gone” is a
natural concert-opener, with its incessant throb, twinned guitar/organ melody
and a Clash-styled anthemic vibe that crests and surges towards a killer
finale. Next up is “Heat Lightnin’ Heat,” part twang and part jangle, urgent
with tambourine and passionate with Caudle’s unexpected swoop into falsetto. “I
wanna dream those dreams/ Yes, I do/ That’ve never been dreamt before,”
confesses Caudle, like a young Springsteen fresh onto the streets and just
starting to sense the possibilities that await. Several songs later there’s
“Weightless,” true to its title airy and spacious, suggestive of wide open
landscapes and endless highways, and not long after that there’s “Corners,” a
buoyant, chiming slice of Westerbergian powerpop featuring an extended coda
destined to make the tune a natural concert closer that’ll send concertgoers out into the night, abuzz and still humming along.


And that’s just four songs: there’s an embarrassment of
riches to be found here. To reference my earlier album review – is Caudle the
next big Americana
thing? Just maybe. I know where my bets are getting placed.


Standout Tracks: “So
Gone,” “Corners,” “Weightless” FRED MILLS







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