Eli Petersen of Twangville.com :
Caleb Caudle blew me away with his debut record Red Bank Road. That record was a calm exertion, a seamless acoustic record of classic Americana. Supplemented by occasional pedal steel flourishes, the record was largely just Caleb and an acoustic guitar. Red Bank Road lived in my car stereo for months. The songs, penned by a then-19 year old Caleb and a couple by his brother Kyle, weren’t rushed or hurried. They were just sublime. Needless to say, I was looking forward to last year’s full band effort. Billed as Caleb Caudle and the Bayonets, Stay On was a good record. It didn’t quite stick with me the way Red Bank Road had. Some of the songs were quite good, especially songs like “Our Heaven” and “When the Moment Comes,” which were highlights of their live show. But overall, there was something missing. The record just didn’t feel timeless the way Red Bank Road did.
But not to worry, because fast on the heels of Stay On, Caleb and his Bayonets regrouped to give us Snake River Canyon. Whereas Red Bank Road was more of an alt. country record andStay On incorporated the band’s love of soul music, the latest from the Bayonets features a broad cross section of R&B, indie-cana, and Crazy Horse-style rock and roll. Packaged like a 70′s era Neil Young record, Snake River Canyon is a masterful statement. Chiming guitars ring out over musical beds that are created in part by producer Jon Ashley (the Avett Brothers, Band of Horses) and guest musician Ryan Monroe (Band of Horses). The former adds Moog Mini Voyager on two tracks and mellotron on another, while the latter plays either organ or Rhodes piano on half the cuts. The overall sound here is definitely a more Band of Horses-like wall of sound, but don’t kid yourself–the Bayonets are not merely Band of Horses-lite. While that band leans on atmospherics and a My Morning Jacket-style reverb, the Bayonets have a more muscular musical vocabulary that recalls the Stones or the Funk Brothers.
However, as always, the true standout instrument is Caleb’s voice. It’s as singularly Americana as Jay Farrar, but his range is that of a soul singer. Just listen to the vocal flourishes on “Moonlight Mile”or “Weightless”. It definitely distinguishes the Bayonets from their alt. country peers. And here, they’ve found the perfect sound to match it.
Dennis Cook of Dirty Impound :
Dreamers don’t have it easy in this world. Reality has a gravity that often leaves us spitting smoke and flames, gathering up the newly wrecked pieces of our lives just as we thought we’d learned to fly. There’s a wondrous mix of cloud high conjecture and down-in-the-dirt truthfulness to Winston-Salem, NC’s Caleb Caudle and The Bayonets. With a rootsy vibe akin to The Jayhawks and The Replacements and a forward surging energy that compares well with Ryan Adams circa Gold, this band, especially as reflected in their bang-up new release Snake River Canyon, is the real deal.
The raw emotion, stinging guitars and clever couplets make things go down easy, but once digested it’s obvious there’s more nutritional value to them than most young bands these days. One feels Caudle and The Bayonets’ greatest power in simmering slow burns like Skeleton Tree and Weightless, ideal companions as one muses over the great, wide world outside one’s bedroom window or eats distance along lonely highways. Weightless and other kindred spirits in their catalog could be the centerpiece of a lovely, personal indie flick; a sound and configuration of words that breaks up emotional log jams inside us with a sharp but ultimately welcome tug. With hands clapping and heart swelling, Caudle cries, “I want to be so much more than myself tonight.” That urge, that inner tickle to strive and imagine, flutters inside this band, and even if we only get almost there – as in the Evel Knievel references on Snake River Canyon — it’s still worth trying with everything we’ve got in us. Caleb Caudle and The Bayonets provide the perfect soundtrack for throwing our hopes to the wind and seeing where they take us, come what may.
Fred Mills of Blurt :
Just under a year ago I reviewed Winston-Salem, NC, upstart Caleb Caudle’s sophomore release, Stay On, offering with undisguised enthusiasm, “The 22-year old sounds like he stepped straight outta Lone Star territory, with jaw-droppingly fine songs steeped in classic Earle, Ely, Clark, McMurtry and Van Zandt.” Admittedly, first exposure to a fresh face can often be akin to a teenage crush, netting breathless, hypercaffeinated praise from even the most jaded scribes. Musical crushes are what got us started in this business, after all; they’re what we live for… Then I got to see Caudle this past December, and within the space of a few songs I knew my initial hunch wasn’t wrong: this guy’s got the stuff. Backed by a gifted group of musicians (who don’t so much wield bayonets as stealth daggers in their razor-sharp hooks and ability to collectively shift rhythmic gears like a long-distance trucker), Caudle exudes a natural, easy-going stage charisma that tugs the young ladies down front even as the guys in the audience root for him. Doesn’t hurt that he’s got some seriously fine tunes in his back pocket.
On the brand new Snake River Canyon, cut at Asheville’s Echo Mountain Studios with engineer Jon Ashley (Avett Brothers, Band of Horses), Caudle & Co. serve up a ten-song musical travelogue par excellence, one that hangs together as such thanks to a setlist-worthy sequencing sense – think how Tom Petty’s albums flow seamlessly, with midtempo tunes easing into raveups and the intrasong dynamics serving to keep the brain/ass function of rock ‘n’ roll lit up. Yet it’s perilously easy to single out songs for the iPod generation, too. First track “So Gone” is a natural concert-opener, with its incessant throb, twinned guitar/organ melody and a Clash-styled anthemic vibe that crests and surges towards a killer finale. Next up is “Heat Lightnin’ Heat,” part twang and part jangle, urgent with tambourine and passionate with Caudle’s unexpected swoop into falsetto. “I wanna dream those dreams/ Yes, I do/ That’ve never been dreamt before,” confesses Caudle, like a young Springsteen fresh onto the streets and just starting to sense the possibilities that await. Several songs later there’s “Weightless,” true to its title airy and spacious, suggestive of wide open landscapes and endless highways, and not long after that there’s “Corners,” a buoyant, chiming slice of Westerbergian powerpop featuring an extended coda destined to make the tune a natural concert closer that’ll send concertgoers out into the night, abuzz and still humming along.
And that’s just four songs: there’s an embarrassment of riches to be found here. To reference my earlier album review – is Caudle the next big Americana thing? Just maybe. I know where my bets are getting placed.