Texas-domiciled country girl explores her Appalachian heritage.
A fine line is to be trod between the traditional and the contemporary but Galveston based singer-songwriter Cheryl Cawood succeeds admirably on this, her full length debut. Cawood delves deep into her Kentucky family history and draws on the legends and hand-me-down memories of her homeland to weave vivid stories of mountain life, and the often troubled existence her ancestors endured.
Cawood’s major strength on ‘Bullet in the Cabin Wall’ is her ability to tell a story that, despite the uniquely Appalachian imagery, is universally relatable. From the despair of the unemployed miner described in ‘Coming Home’, to the regret of the guilt ridden mother chronicled in ‘Down in Your Bones’, the emotional core of Cawood’s descriptive tales can be projected onto lives and situations far beyond the KY state line. She paints in colourful strokes as she playfully lists the furtive activities of the illicit moonshiner, a feud between early settlers and indigenous Cherokee people, or the recollections of a rustic childhood on the moving ‘Daddy’s Hometown’.
Despite the historical subject matter, the album is sonically varied and engaging, with excellent musicianship throughout and a dynamic, focussed production which will appeal to modern audiences and traditionalists alike. Cawood’s voice is rich and warm with a ‘been there, done that and bought the t-shirt’ world-weariness, the evidence of a life well lived reinforcing the authenticity of her delivery.
To call ‘Bullet in the Cabin Wall’ a concept album could be a step too far, but the nostalgic narrative that runs throughout the album binds together the songs into what may be considered chapters of a book, a common thread forming a cohesive whole across it’s well thumbed, yellowing pages.
In today’s world, obsessed as we are with living in the moment, Cheryl Cawood’s recognition of the importance of the roots that form the basis of who we are is welcome. Here she acknowledges the good and the bad, the hardships and the trials whilst glorifying neither. Instead she lets her stories of struggle and ultimate salvation unfold organically on this accomplished and satisfying album.