By Bill Petzold
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Caro High School graduate Sarah Overdier is known in her hometown as a terrific vocalist, musician, and author of the song “Caro,” a musical tribute to the town where she grew up.
But it’s in her new home, Columbus, Ohio, where Overdier is gaining recognition for her talent and musical taste.
Overdier and her compatriots in the four-piece band The Salty Caramels — Emily Ng, Paige Vandiver and Molly Winters — recently released their album, Damn Good Woman, which features an eclectic blend of styles and instruments that are difficult to classify — but easy to enjoy.
“We like to call ourselves Nostalgic Americana Rock,” Overdier said. “Most of our music is mostly original, but we do Andrews Sisters covers and songs from the earlier 1940s, and we also are very inspired by the Shangri Las and good old groups from the 50s and 60s. We also play rootsy, bluegrass-type songs.”
The 11 tracks of Damn Good Woman play almost like a college survey course in popular music of the 20th Century — from rootsy to modern, country to coffee shop — all tied together with solid two- and three-part vocal harmonies. Unique, folky instruments like glockenspiel and the washboard figure big in the album’s sound.
“We have a singing saw, and we have these sort of novelty insturments: kazoo, suitcase drums. We play chains on ‘Damn Good Woman,’” Overdier said. “We pull all these weird instruments together.”
But while The Caramels draw influences from a simpler time, as the band’s name implies, there is a salty, wicked streak simmering under the surface of the band’s sweet sound.
“Half of our album is sweet, and half is salty,” Overdier said, explaining both the band’s name and sound. “First (Salty Caramel) is a local ice cream flavor, in Columbus we’re known for Jenny’s Ice Cream. It’s an all-girl group, and we love the idea that women are naturally salty and sweet. If you listen to the album, some are love songs and some are actually kind of mean. Instruments like the chains kind of add to the grit.”
Tunes like “Washboard Love Song” sound like classic country music of the 50s and 60s, while the next track, “She’ll Be Coming For Ya,” has a more produced, poppy sound. “Broken Two” highlights the band’s outstanding vocal capabilities, while “Warmest of Hues” is a simple waltz-tempo tune that sounds like a folk song that could have been written in the 1920s. The final track, “Will You Run,” sounds most similar to Overdier’s song “Caro,” which along with tracks from Damn Good Woman, still gets airplay on Caro radio station Mix 92.1 FM.
The album features one cover tune, the song “Rum and Coca-Cola” which was made popular by the Andrews Sisters, which Overdier said is a good example of the bands salty/sweet aesthetic.
“When you just listen to it, it sounds like a little happy song,” she said. “But when you listen to the lyrics, it’s actually pretty racy.”
The band hosted a well-attended CD release party earlier this summer, and Overdier said that the Columbus media helped get the word out. In July, Impulcity.com’s Matt Teaford listed the Caramels in his column “15 Columbus Artists You Need To Listen To Right Now.”
“We were really lucky, we had seven media coverages in a week: four print articles. two radio interviews and a TV spot,” Overdier said.
Beyond their musicality, Overdier said that the Caramels have managed to turn their band into a self-supporting business.
“We’re really proud that we’re an independent group,” Overdier said. “We managed to be completely in the black as far as our band fund. We utilitized a lot of local studios and engineers artists. Now we own all of our own material, and 100 percent of the sales goes to us. I work for a music college called Groove U, … and the album started out as a project for a student. She was really interested in doing some sound recording. She did such a good job that she tracked the entire album and we paid her, So we recorded the thing at Groove U.
“We get money from gigging, selling merchandise at our shows, and selling albums (online). We do a really good job of balancing paying ourselves and putting money back into the band fund. We do all our own accounting. Because of the nature of our sound and our demographic, we’re really hoping to put out a vinal version of the album and do a soft run of that.”
For more on The Salty Caramels or to order a copy of Damn Good Woman, visit their website at thesaltycaramels.net.