Caleb Elliott, Where You Wanna Be (Freetown Songs)

On his debut album, Lafayette’s Caleb Elliott takes us back to a sweeter pop era—the early ’90s, when artists Toad the Wet Sprocket and the Gin Blossoms offered sincerity and longing atop clean guitar work. For such a young guy, Elliott’s sound lacks only rough edges, blessed as he is with an idyllic voice and a catchy sensibility. He falls hard, but the ordered production makes you certain his love won’t go unrequited for long. As a lyricist, Elliott is downright nice.

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With so much talent, Elliott probably needs a little heartbreak to separate himself from those earlier pop acts, who sold a lot of singles but tend to blend together in hindsight. Along with his songwriting skills, Elliott plays a mean cello. On “I Would Never” and “Where You Wanna Be,” we hear how well that instrument works with Elliott’s lively voice. The Brit-pop feel of “Run,” which lays effects over Elliott’s voice, gives us the spaciest strings on the album. Notably, Susan Cowsill provides backup vocals on the record.

The fiddle-laden closing track, “Le Reel Fache,” bares his roots in Acadiana. Curiously, the song ends rather abruptly, with only a snippet of vocals. It’s up to the artist to decide if home turf is worth turning, but you get the feeling Caleb Elliott can go wherever he wants. A few bumps in the road will serve him well.