The first thing that stands out on this recording is Sera Cahoone's sweet barstool-romance voice that raises its head long enough to say goodbye. On Only as the Day Is Long, Cahoone successfully incorporates the modern roots-country without overplaying the hand. It is a sincere album with songs that are sweet and long-lasting like a mouthful of caramels. The songs are dotted with delicately placed strings and backing vocals that do not work to sharpen the songs so much as add a wandering allure that elevates the material from the bedroom to roadhouse bar to Grand Ole Opry.
Cahoone's ghostly sad/sweet vocals shine through beautifully tasteful arrangements. Tracks like "Baker Lake" begin with earnest intimacy and then intensify without ever changing the tempo. The thematic and vocal elements raise the tension against the steady guitars and drums. Cahoone's voice is particularly moving when it seems to crumble under the weight of sorrow at the end of most lines. It's as if she cannot go on but does so in a way that leaves a note lingering but lost. The ability to do this without being jarring or overly emotive is what makes Only as the Day Is Long a treat. The track "Shitty Hotel" wins simply for being the best-named track. The song, however, is a bit too cloudy and distracts from the subtle intensity that makes this album good. For example, the song, "Happy When I'm Gone" rumbles and rambles while cutting through the smoke-filled room. It is a revealing and thoughtful piece that does not rely on its own obsession with country tones but works by being undeniably poppy and charming.
Grand Archives with Sera Cahoone, May 29, $8 advance. Neurolux, 111 N. 11th, 208-343-0886.