Caleb Caudle, “Crushed Coins” (Cornelius Chapel Records)
If the phrase ‘easy listening’ didn’t have such a bad name it could be applied to Caleb Caudle’s new album. “Crushed Coins” isn’t shallow or vapid, but it is definitely easy on the ears.
Caudle, a North Carolina native, has much in common with another Carolina native, James Taylor, and his work contains a hint of country legend Don Williams, too. With each of them, the gentle spirit of the singer is likely the first thing you notice.
This is music to be listened to on a porch swing. A lot of it might have been written on one.
But if Caudle is as easygoing as he sounds, he is wrestling with heavyweight themes — grief in “Six Feet From the Flowers” and the pall that comes over a house without laughter in the title track. He does so with heart, against a backdrop of well-crafted songs.
Caudle sometimes dabbles in more hopeful themes, as on the album’s closer, “Until It’s Over.” The album’s best track, it’s a love song not bound by conventional songwriting rules.
After he and a lover watched “the sky fill up with beauty,” Caudle sings, “We were not afraid anymore.”
But it’s the chorus that follows that takes things higher, and it does so with elegant simplicity. By repeating the word “anymore” again and again, Caudle creates a kind of nursery rhyme effect that gives the sentiment fresh urgency.
Easy to listen to, yes. But deeply affecting, too.