Fort Worth's Collin Herring continues to battle his personal demons on his subdued but excellent fourth album, Ocho. It's by far the most retrospective and daring of the (still) young singer-songwriter's career, containing eight textured narratives concerning addiction and recovery. Past Life Crashing, Herring's 2008 release, also dealt with these topics, but in a much less reflective way. Where Past Life offered rock and roll itself as a form of deliverance, Ocho offers only the cold hard facts, released in slow waves, darkly. Herring delivers these tales with hints of Americana, but with a new edge that makes the pain all that more tangible.
Starting with "Nothing's Good" and concluding with "Little Aches," Ocho's frame of reference is in line with Herring's growing maturity. "Trazadone," the new effort's best cut, is driven by a beautiful accordion melody, a far cry from the brashness of Herring's earlier (but also undeniably great) work. Credit goes to producer Will Johnson for filling the gaps where guitar once feasted with all manner of interesting instrumentation. The squeaks and pops that open up "Young Ones" is a prime example of Johnson showing Herring that there is, indeed, something new under the sun.
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Only, in the case of Ocho's subject matter, there is very little sun to be found.