One of my favourite ways to find new music is to see who some of my favourite artists are working or touring with. So when I reviewed Lizzie No’s album earlier this year I also discovered her friend and fellow musician Caroline Reese, who writes the kind of gorgeous indie alt-country songs they call Americana nowadays. Caroline has opened for artists like Brandi Carlile, Chris Stapleton and Ray Wylie Hubbard. Her new E.P. Two Horses consists of four stripped back new songs which tell the story of her recent move to Montana and her life as a struggling musician.
Some critics don’t like E.P.s because they see them as filler or a stopgap before a new album but for me listening to this short collection of songs was a great introduction to Caroline Reese’s beautiful voice. Earlier this year Caroline and her band, The Drifting Fifth released their album Tenderfoot and previously she has released two solo albums, Slow Code in 2013 and Indian River in 2010 – all of which I listened to after sampling her talents on this E.P. Sometimes you just need to dip your toe in the water or swim in the shallow end before you do ten lengths of the pool. So overall for me as a music fan and blogger E.P.s are a positive trend, no different than in the past when artist used to release a single with multiple b-sides – now the songs are just collected in a short format that is easy to stream.
The Two Horses E.P. opens with Nicotine, about the past and how life can lead you in a circle sometimes. I just thought ten years would be long enough / I’m right back where you left me again, she sings barely believing how time can disappear. These songs were recorded semi-live on a farm so it’s nice to hear the real country sound of steel guitar echoing through.
There’s been a few songs about anxiety on Americana albums this year, maybe it’s just a sign of these god awful times. Ironically stress sure makes for some great tunes and Ease My Mind is no exception, being the strongest song on this collection. This is a story about searching for an answer to the endless strains of life. I gave away all my belongings / read my Bronte and Austen/ picked up my guitar every night/ can nothing ease my mind? In her search for that illusive solution music seems to be the only answer. As Ryan Adams once sang: ain’t no bluebird ever get too heavy to sing.
The theme of life’s troubles is continued into the next song (I’m Not Selling the) Telecaster, about the challenge of starting over. Okay she might have to pawn things to fund her future but she has her limits – no matter how bad the winter is she’s not going to give up her guitar. By spring things will be better again, she’s sure of it. And this song proves her point – the guitars are the star.
Two Horses, the title track, is a folky acoustic number with background vocal harmonies from Lizzie No. The singing on this song is full of emotion, adding layers of bittersweet feelings to the love story. She sings wistfully of two horses, in tandem, on the run. Freedom sounds good in theory but there’s a little danger here too, making the relationship, and the song, all the more intoxicating.
Similar to the Lindi Ortega EP from early this year, Two Horses, focuses on moments where life is in flux. At one point she sings It’s getting harder every day to get by just singing songs, but hopefully it’s just a fleeting moment of doubt. This EP showcases the strength of Reese’s singing and strumming, suggesting she will have a bright future wherever life’s journey takes her next.