On last year's debut album While You Weren't Looking, Whiskeytown alum Caitlin Cary displayed the voice and lyrics of a formidable solo artist, in spite of nondescript melodies and excessively tasteful arrangements. Cary's follow-up, I'm Staying Out, continues to package her light country-soul in tiny boxes, with the kind of just-the-facts percussion and clean, quiet guitar solos that keep "rockin' country" from rockin' too much. But on the confident, tuneful I'm Staying Out, the reserved approach sounds like elegant classicism. Returning producer Chris Stamey polishes the sound without over-slickening: He decorates the tracks with electric piano, horns, and strings without sacrificing their spareness. For her part, Cary stretches out a bit, pushing most of her new songs past the four-minute mark by taking it slow and easy, pausing for instrumental breaks, and dropping to a hush for drama and emphasis. The result is a top-to-bottom solid disc with a handful of subtle knockouts. "You Don't Have To Hide" bubbles up to a rolling Memphis soul simmer while touching briefly on gospel passion and '80s Southern college-rock mystery. "Cello Girl" adds up to a swirling, high-volume rock anthem, flavored by twang and strengthened by its placement after "Please Break My Heart," a straight honky-tonk weeper. The title track is a beer-soaked, Celtic-tinged declaration of independence that foreshadows the epic closer, a cover of Continental Drifters' "I Want To Learn To Waltz" (written by Peter Holsapple, whose collaborators Stamey, Don Dixon, and Mitch Easter all played some role in I'm Staying Out). The latter careens from a slow waltz to a fast waltz, with a drunken clarinet trilling behind Cary's album-defining plea for a few more dances with an ex-lover. Through all the discreet shuffling of styles, the ace in the deck remains Cary's deep, full vocals. Again and again on I'm Staying Out, she guides the songs through verses, over bridges, and into choruses, pitching hard and pitching soft, telling stories of romantic adventure that are plainly understood through her harmonic tone of confidence and ache.