Collin Herring - The Other Side of Kindness

(originally written for the Boise Weekly)

Alt-country always strikes me as unparalleled in the context of authenticity. Collin Herring, hailed as “the torchbearer for alt-country” by the Dallas Observer (an assertion implying a responsibility that isn't entirely fair), plays his guitar and opens his mouth not to turn heads, but rather because playing music is simply what he does. Before even the first song ends, we understand that playing music is on par for Collin with eating, sleeping, and breathing.

Though there is surely something to be said for this raw authenticity, it does not necessarily equate to a worthwhile sonic experience. Indeed, I'm certain that my high school punk band meant every note of the 'music' that we played. But alas, none of our songs have stood the test of time. On The Other Side of Kindness Herring creates a genuine Americana audio landscape. The music's features are as familiar as the landmarks of the American heartland it evokes. This disc, however, is not entirely an obnoxious recreation of tired and traditional musical sensibilities. Herring's music is anchored by guitars that are comfortable like Grandpa and Grandma's home and is accentuated by strings like breezes over rolling green hills. Excuse the clich├ęs.

While the music borders on run-of-the-mill alt-country, Herring shines through his words and vocal delivery. His voice is honest and occasionally intense – like Conor Oberst if he were more focused and more alt-country (the press release included obscure comparisons such as Husker Du; I had to have my fun too). Infused with just the right dose of twang, Herring's voice delivers down-home lyrics that contain grassroots insight. In 'Cauterize' Herring ponders out loud, “I guess only the lucky pictures turn yellow in a frame. The rest you slide into some dark place where receipts are research to remember where I've been, and bad news leads to interstates.” Within one's personal context words like these can attain a lucidity that is capable of shaking lives.

No matter how I may herald the greatness of today's trendiest music, I can't help but occasionally feel suffocated by the pretentiousness that abounds in both the words and sounds. A musician as unpretentious as Herring is refreshing because he is not the next big thing – he's just doing his thing.

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