One of the more rewarding aspects of being a music fan is watching an artist take an established genre and try to expand its horizons. In the alt.country world, Collin Herring on Fort Worth, Texas, is doing just that. His career may still be in its infancy, but he has already shown a willingness to buck convention: his 2002 debut, Avoiding the Circus was recorded live in its entirety. On The Other Side of Kindness, a proper studio release, Herring is given the opportunity to be more precise with his arrangements and showcase his eagerness to explore new musical avenues.
Still, Herring hasn't forgotten where he comes from. The Other Side of Kindness still uses many of the genre's staples and is, at its heart, a Southern-rock record. The pedal-steel work by Ben Roi Herring (Collin's father) is reminiscent of that on Neil Young's Harvest, and his lyrics are filled with the usual country fare: tough luck, falling out of love, songs to drive around aimlessly to.
But the little things set Herring's work apart. The Other Side of Kindness features two instrumentals, "Headliner" and "Flower Mound." The instrumentation that makes these two songs stand out, and both feature pronounced violin segments, giving them an almost orchestral sound while preserving their Southern charm. The smoldering "Lazy Wind" and the surging rock hooks of "Back of Your Mind" are similarly out of step from tradition.
Herring does make a few missteps, including occasionally giving into cliché imagery to purvey his sentiments, most notably in "Sinkhole of Love." This is all the more frustrating since the album's more inspired moments show Herring to be an imaginative songwriter. "Aphorism" contains a great throwaway line: "The silk of summer is blowing away/ Grocery stores are putting out a new floor display."
Collin Herring is an up-and-coming artist with tons of potential. Still, The Other Side of Kindness is an alt.country record. If that isn't your thing, the album isn't likely to change your mind. It might, however, open it a little.
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