While Ryan Adams was quickly hailed as the genius-in-residence among alt-country troublemakers Whiskeytown, it's worth noting that Adams' post-Whiskeytown albums have shown him to be a gifted but sometimes painfully self-conscious songwriter casting about for a creative direction that suits him, while Caitlin Cary (who contributed violin, backing vocals, and occasional songwriting credits to the group) has displayed a confidence, clarity of vision, and graceful warmth in her solo work that makes it hard not to wonder if she got her fair share of the credit for what made Whiskeytown so memorable. Cary's second solo album, I'm Staying Out, is cut from the same cloth as her first full-length, While You Weren't Looking, but it expands on the ambition of that fine record and shows Cary growing from strength to strength as a writer and a performer. Cary's songs here are intelligent and compassionate, with melodies every bit as lovely as the words, and Cary's vocals possess a delicacy that belies the strength of her instrument when the volume gets turned up on tunes like the alt-rocking "Cello Girl" and the R&B-accented "You Don't Have to Hide." And Cary's band (including Jen Gunderman, Dave Bartholomew, Brian Dennis, and John Wurster) has only gotten better in the interim since While You Weren't Looking, bringing together the folk, pop, soul, and country flavors of these songs and striking the ideal balance between them, with Don Dixon, Mitch Easter, and Mary Chapin Carpenter adding superb guest appearances. (Chris Stamey also adds an invaluable assist as producer.) I'm Staying Out is a lovely and rewarding album from an artist who is quietly but firmly proving herself to be a major artist.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming