Review: Kathryn Caine’s “When I Was His Wife”

By Paul T. Mueller

–Singer-songwriter Kathryn Caine’s fifth album is a nice showcase for her fine songwriting and expressive singing, and she helps her own cause by acting as co-producer. Caine is from Charlottesville, Virginia, so it’s not surprising that the 12 songs on When I Was His Wife (10 of them written and one co-written by Caine) feature a bluegrassy country sound, with some folk and gospel influences thrown in to good effect.

Most of the tracks are anchored by the sharp acoustic guitar and mandolin of Andy Thacker, along with banjo by Tom Hogge. Other players include Darrell Muller on bass, James McLaughlin on drums and percussion, and Jay Starling on Dobro. Caine does an excellent job of accompanying herself on piano on three songs. Extra credit to McLaughlin, who co-produced the album and also recorded, mixed, engineered and mastered it.

With a few exceptions, Caine’s subject matter tends toward the dark side – failed romance, hard times, drinking and regret are among the themes she explores. But she does it with skill, and the high quality of her singing and the band’s playing keep the album from descending into depression.

Best bets include the title track, a bitter warning to an ex’s new love; “Remember When,” another post-breakup song but one with a gentler tone; “Nothing to Lose,” an exploration of life’s passages that features Caine’s piano and singing that recalls Iris DeMent, and “The Whiskey Song,” a duet with singer and guitarist Peyton Tochterman, who also co-wrote the song.

The album closes with a beautiful rendition of the traditional hymn “Abide With Me,” again featuring Caine’s piano and sweet but powerful voice. Kathryn Caine may not be a household name for most of us, but this collection deserves a listen.

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  3 comments for “Review: Kathryn Caine’s “When I Was His Wife”

  1. Bob Garland
    October 31, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    I have been a big fan of Kathryn’s for several years and can’t, for the life of me, understand why she’s not a “household name”. Check her out on iTunes. There are some great songs there.

  2. November 1, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    Thank you for this excellent review! Had the very great pleasure of not only booking Kathryn for a recent show at Victory Hall Theater in Scottsville, VA, but also listening to her wonderful performance!! Her vocals were spot-on…strong, yet heartfelt. There were tears in the eyes of some audience members, my husband and myself included, as her sometimes-wrenching songs took us along on her journey…. Top-notch songwriter, indeed! As the owners of Ravensworth Studios (a pro audio facility), we like to think we know a few things about great music when we hear it! Thanks, Kathyrn, for a beautiful night! All the best to you.

  3. November 3, 2012 at 8:19 am

    I have had the privilege to work with Kathryn. She is an amazing performer, writer and musician. Her voice is pure and strong…that of an angel. My favorite song on this record is The Whiskey Song. It is reminicent of Alison Krauss in the early years.
    I also have a big love for Mary which was not mentioned in this review. Mary is straight up Kathryn Caine in my opinion. She takes the heart break of loosing her brother and finds the strength to move forward. Lyrically there is a message and melodically it moves, bluegrass-gospel with soul…soulgrass.
    Well worth the listen!

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