When CAROLINE HERRING left Austin, Texas, for Decatur in 2003, she exchanged a budding mu-sical career for marriage and children. But in March of this year, she returned with Lantana, an album destined to land on many year-end best album lists. Herring used to be a folklorist, so she understands that great songs tell a story. Her lyrics are carefully crafted, and her rough-edged voice blends perfectly with their Southern Gothic flavor. The most provocative song on Lantana is “Paper Gown,” written from the perspective of Susan Smith, who was convicted in 1995 of killing her own children. The comeback album has led to a busy performance schedule that has taken Herring up and down the East Coast and to Europe. www.carolineherring.com.