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First Listen: Sera Cahoone, 'Deer Creek Canyon'

NPR icon by Stephen Thompson

Audio for this feature is no longer available.

In "And Still We Move," from Sera Cahoone's gorgeous new album Deer Creek Canyon, the young singer's words fester and ache with loneliness and longing: "I'm trying hard not to erase all of you." But even at her most alienated and conflicted, Cahoone makes the most agreeable sound in the room. Hers is a voice of honeyed reassurance; of tranquility and grace in the face of life's wearying churn. Cahoone sings with authentic, convincing emotion — even bitterness, when warranted — but she can't help coming off like a trusted friend.

Deer Creek Canyon doesn't shy away from emotional discomfort, but it's all conveyed in the most comfort-inducing manner imaginable. In the Aimee Mann-esque "Naked," Cahoone explores the way vulnerability can lead to detachment, but even her deadpan has a lilt to it. The album's bittersweet title track wonders at the gravitational pull of our hometowns, but never casts judgment on anyone involved. ("For all the love I have there, I needed to be on my own / My brother and my sister both left, and now they've gone back home.") But as dark and multidimensional as her subject matter can get — and, no, "Rumpshaker" is neither a Wreckx-N-Effect cover nor an ode to rump-shaking — Cahoone's musings exude the wisdom and perspective of an older sibling and a therapist rolled into one.

Dressed in banjos, slide guitars, mandolins and strings, even Cahoone's saddest songs have a palliative effect. Like the two tremendous and mystifyingly little-heard albums that precede it, Deer Creek Canyon adds up to one long, calm, welcome pep talk — a perfectly warm and warming supplement to hot cider on a chilly fall day.

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Audio for this feature is no longer available.