Fort Worth's Collin Herring is temporarily residing in Austin, trying to keep his life in order. After releasing his brilliant sophomore effort, 2005's The Other Side of Kindness, Herring's fortunes took a dark turn for the worse. Rumors of alcoholism were rampant over the past couple of years, but Herring has thankfully cleaned himself up with a couple of stints in rehab. Freshly sober, his lack of indulgence has done little to dull his songwriting edge. Past Life Crashing, Herring's new album, is a magnificent and harrowing account of life's tribulations. Full of allusions to his inebriated past, songs such as "Yard Cars" and "Beside" tell the story of a guy who "closed bars with open arms" only to end up "beside myself." Unflinchingly honest, this is music of rare introspection that doesn't wallow in self-pity. Still possessing a remarkably reedy voice (think Paul Westerberg meets Nick Drake), Herring has crafted his best collection of songs to date. Rocking when called for (the surging "Cellophane") but capable of Dylanesque reflection (the lovely "Pictures" which could teach Rhett Miller a thing or two about subtlety), Past Life Crashing is one of those cathartic releases, like Pete Townshend's Empty Glass, that show a songwriter unafraid of tackling the thorny issues of dependence and revival.
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