But now I'm listening to the album, and when track 12 ends, I'm going back to the beginning. I want to hear the chorus to "Good-bye, Caroline" again, so I can thrill to all the classic pop-song ingredients mixed together. "Good-bye, Caroline, you're my favorite faith healer," Mann sings, and I've heard people sing good-bye before, I've heard notes and melodies like these before, I've heard singers sing to women named Caroline before, but I've never heard a song's narrator sing to a faith healer, or sing to his lover and call her a faith healer, implying that deep down, he is singing good-bye to his faith in the healing power of her love.
Some or all of Mann's dates on this winter tour are acoustic shows, so she may not bring the band that gives The Forgotten Arm its ironically uplifting 1970s-roots-rock sound to the Michigan Theater on Saturday, February 4. But that'll just put more emphasis on Mann's melodies and her dark alto, which, much like that of the Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde, is tough enough that you know she won't lie to you with a naively optimistic ballad, and soft enough that it can tremble with the beauty of her hard-won dignity.
[Review published February 2006]