Caroline Spence – True North
With a gentle gratifying vocal Caroline Spence’s breezy voice begins with a song named for the poet “Mary Oliver,” — a jubilant beautifully rendered melody. Though her voice may sound a little juvenile this is just a honeysuckle tone that at times had been the staple of Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris & early Alison Krauss & to great effect.
Caroline Spence has expertise (acoustic guitar) & her songs are intelligent & developed beyond the junkyard of cliches many of today’s songs seem to be filled with. They’re just fool’s gold. This is a bag filled with real nuggets.
“The Gift,” is simple but found in its simplicity is a poignant story. It’s well-arranged & showcased, produced by Jordan Lehning (bass, B3, electric guitars, acoustic guitar, 12-strung electric, high-string guitar, gut string, synth, mellotron, piano, chimes, vibraphone, programming, Juno-60, bgv).
Recorded in Nashville the 12-song, 42-minute collection True North (Dropped April 29–Rounder Records) isn’t an overachieving country or folk record. The melodies are solidly catchy & Spence’s voice is always luxuriously smooth.
This is Caroline’s 4th LP which is moderately influenced by her nostalgic favorites Nada Surf, Aimee Mann & Oasis. My musical experience goes further back than those artists, so I hear nuances that are rooted in older artists. But that’s fine, Ms. Spence has good ears. Her whole concept of piecing together her repertoire wears their individual excellence lightly.
“Blue Sky Rain,” is excellent. Spence has said the LP is about love – deep love, love for time on this earth, for the people that pass through our lives, for yourself, for searching & for unanswered questions. She touches upon grief which is also an outpouring of love. A heavy trip. But Caroline manages to sculpt each song with an endearing substance.
Musicians – Dom Billett (drums), Mike Rinne (bass), Avery Bright (viola), Austin Hoke (cello), Annaliese Kowert (1st violin), Kristin Weber (2nd violin), Ethan Ballinger (electric guitar, mandolin, tenor acoustic) & Spencer Cullum Jr. (steel guitar).
Sometimes an emotional vocal tease is stronger than vocal theatrics. That’s evident here in these vibrantly charming pieces. “The Next Good Time,” is radio-friendly, slow but so cool. “I Forget the Rest,” sounds almost like an Alison Krauss song. At times Caroline may be a little too whispery. But she doesn’t depend on that aspect of singing. She knows where the whispery words go & she knows where the stirring lines need their space.
“I Know You Know Me,” falls into this area yet, it’s a masterpiece of a song with a spray of strings. This is not a bunch of songs that just sound good. There’s a back story, a thread that runs through each. Personally, I enjoyed each one, there isn’t a weak cut & I usually prefer a stronger vocal approach. Ms. Spence just knows her craft.
Her CD art includes a color-stitched lyric insert with delicate illustrations. Color image: Kaitlyn Raitz.
CD @ https://www.carolinespencemusic.com/
+ Bandcamp – https://carolinespencemusic.bandcamp.com/
+ Rounder – https://www.roughtrade.com/us/caroline-spence/true-north