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Caitlin Cary and Thad Cockrell

Warmth & Beauty – 2003 (Yep Roc)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by Caitlin Cary and Thad Cockrell

Although Thad Cockrell is now based in Raleigh, N.C., a hotbed of alt.-country/roots rock activity, he rejected that hybridization in favor of the pure country direction of his Baptist roots and early Merle Haggard/George Jones/Charlie Rich influences.

Cockrell's 2001 debut, the Chris Stamey-produced "Stack of Dreams," was an unintentional album filled with demos that reflected his unencumbered love of country music. His sophomore album (also manned by Stamey), offers plenty of country twang and wail but seems to have benefited from the rootsy atmosphere of his immediate surroundings as well as the wealth of available talent - Tift Merritt, Caitlin Cary, Mitch Easter all guest and former Jayhawk/current Caitlin Cary keyboardist Jen Gunderman sits in with Cockrell's band.

With a voice touched by Dwight Yoakam and Hank Williams, Cockrell offers a broader range of country possibilities from the Jayhawks/dBs squall of "I'd Rather Have You" to the Yoakamesque whisper of the title track to the Southern country blues lilt of "She Ain't No You." Although Cockrell moves back to a more traditional honky tonk soundscape toward the end, the album's varied style palette shows Cockrell is willing to look toward a number of different techniques to adorn his exquisitely authentic songwriting skills.