Caroline Herring's new album sounds ancient. The traditional folk style of the music certainly contributes, but the theme of age-old struggles is the more significant factor. "Lantana" is very feminine, and Herring sometimes sacrifices clarity for poetry, but it's not frills and flowers. It forgoes the sass and polish that most contemporary female singer-songwriters offer to focus on the deeper trials of womanhood.
Herring's characters range from Franciscan Sister Thea Bowman through a variety of unnamed wives, mothers and daughters to child murderer Susan Smith, but they all carry a heavy load. It's telling that one of the more optimistic songs is "Lay My Burden Down," about death releasing a woman from her earthly troubles for the journey to heaven. That said, it's not a depressing album. The women struggle, but they're not beaten down or world-weary, and they maintain faith.
This is a niche album, one to pull out in moments of quiet introspection. Though she doesn't appear to be aiming for inspirational, Herring's strength, hope and sincerity are uplifting. It won't be the soundtrack for your next party, but for many women, it may be the soundtrack of your life.