Longtime Detroit singer-songwriter Carolyn Striho really needn't have bothered naming her new album Honesty. After all, it should be apparent to anyone who listens — not just hears but really listens — to the lovingly constructed record that there's barely a note played or sung that Striho doesn't really mean, from the depths of her soul to the entirety of her larynx.
To her credit, Striho hasn't simply taken the tried-and-tested "acoustic songstress" route here, instead sticking her neck out and taking a few risks. The results don't always hit the mark; her rendition of Petula Clark's "Downtown" is played with joyful exuberance but sticks out like a turd in the fruit bowl due to its undeniably karaoke feel. Elsewhere, though, those risks bear, er, juicy fruit.
"East of Eden," the opening track, sets the tone for the entire album. Striho's voice is warm and intoxicating, blessed with a slightly hoarse quality and near hypnotic capabilities. "Sitara," meanwhile, sounds very much like a children's nursery rhyme, sort of like a patty-cake game, until the lyrics are listened to, again, a little closer ("Six feet under, sink deep down below/I can only wonder where the years go"). The vocals are layered here, creating a very creepy, voodoo-esque effect.
The best of the bunch, however, is "Sing It to Me," which finds a monotonous guitar riff playing over Striho's chant-like verses before the chorus kicks in and brings the whole thing together with a sound that has a very Eastern vibe. It's a poetic and ambient song that borders on the spiritual.
As a one-time member of D-Town's punk rock brigade, Striho can rock out whenever she wants — and she most certainly does on the very in-your-face title track — but she's at her best when using her voice like a quilt to comfort the listeners' senses. And that's what he majority of this record really does.
Honesty. It's still best.
Caroline Striho & Scott Dailey play Friday, Jan. 15, at Trinity House, 38840 W. Six Mile Rd., Livonia; 734-464-6302. With Dave Boutette and Chris McCall. The Caroline Striho Group plays Sat., Jan. 17, at Memphis Smoke, 100 S. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-543-4300.
Brett Callwood writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.