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CARAVAN (2011) - Album Review

Carus Thompson has been at this music lark for a while now. With good reason too, he is bloody good at it.
Recent proof being is his latest album Caravan, a truly wondrous collection of songs written and recorded between Australia and Europe.
Reflecting his life on the road split between the two continents. Carus is joined by friends and long time allies on what is perhaps his best album to date.

Caravan has what I consider to perhaps be one of the greatest opening songs to any album I have heard of late. "Red Sky" is a truly beautiful song, with beautiful lyricism and a wonderful darting fiddle courtesy of British folk star Seth Lakeman. The marrying of acoustic guitar and fiddle form the perfect accompaniment for Carus' vocals, a simple backing, but a powerful one nonetheless, with guitar and fiddle building to an emphatic crescendo which still continues to leave me breathless.

Even after the amount of listens I have given it over the last couple of weeks, "You Can't Find Me" still sounds fresh and exciting to me. It really serves to highlight the range with which Carus operates, he can go from introspective folk laden songs, to a rockier and raucous track and it does feel at all forced or contrived. "Fifteen" is a beautiful and touchingly poignant song about a Melbourne shooting in 2008, highlighting Thompson's ability to both write from the perspective of others, but also to make that experience and emotion incredibly real for the listener.

"Imperfect Circle" see's Thompson teaming up with fellow musician and brother Christian Thompson for a rendition of Christian's song. This is a song which if it does nothing else for you, certainly shows the level of talent there is within the Thompson family. "You Made Me" features some fantastic upbeat instrumentation with some lovely background vocals, and some stunning slide guitar flitting throughout.

Title track "Caravan" stands as one of the albums many highlights; it is a breathtaking song, with some charmingly sparse but beautiful instrumentation (that flowing organ is quite something), placing full emphasis on Thompson’s rich vocals and his remarkable lyricism. "Inland Sea" is a nice little folk rocker with a great narrative and some stunning performances by Thompson’s band. "Bright Star", a song about Australian Olympian Peter Norman, sees Lakeman’s darting fiddle return, this time also joined by his brother Sean on electric guitar.

"Beauty Is Your Way" sees Thompson go solo, armed with only his acoustic guitar and his voice. It’s on songs like these he is at his best, the vocal is strong, but weathered and fragile, showing the emotion Thompson is able to invest in his song-writing. It’s clear that this is the kind of song which could silence any venue in which he plays. From emotional and acoustic we move straight into the wonderful countrified rocker of "I Believe In Love" with some incredibly fun piano and some kick-arse pedal steel. "Headstrong" is another song with a slight country feel, featuring some reserved piano and a fantastic vocal performance from long-time collaborator Greg Arnold, the differences in the vocal create a nice dynamic.

"Whistleblower" once again places the focus onto the vocal performance, with some solid gravelled vocal work from Thompson, with some subtle harmonising from Arnold. It also happens to feature a sublime string section, which gives the whole song a delicate but striking feel to it. The album finishes with "Luke’s Song", a solo acoustic performance from Thompson. It’s a touchingly performance, with the emotion palpable. A beautiful end to a superb collection of songs.

Caravan is an album which highlights Thompson's indelible craft as a songwriter and performer. It is an album which at times is fun, beautiful, touching and mesmerizing. It’s an album which you will find yourself listening to over and over, discovering and rediscovering small intricate details. It is for me already one of the best Australian releases of year. Go out and buy the albums, catch Carus on his tour around the country, you won’t regret it.

Review score: 9/10

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