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First Listen: Sera Cahoone, 'Deer Creek Canyon'

NPR icon by Stephen Thompson
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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.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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