Album Reviews

Caroline Spence

Spades and Roses

Artist:     Caroline Spence

Album:     Spades and Roses

Label:     Self Released

Release Date:     03/03/2017

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This is yet another one of those East Nashville gems from the recently relocated Caroline Spence who originally hails from Charlottesville, VA. Her sophomore release, following her highly acclaimed debut, 2015’s Somehow, shows expected growth and is more sonically embellished than the debut. These sounds, framed by producer, Neilson Hubbard, provide the backdrop for Spence’s rather light voice and confessional tunes. Don’t let her voice fool you—she is raw, authentic and determined to convey both self-confidence and vulnerability, speaking mostly in a first person voice throughout. Her 11 penned or co-penned originals sound rootsy, poppy, or meditatively folky depending on the tune. Yes, evoking the early recordings of Nanci Griffith, Emmylou Harris, and Patty Griffin, some have compared her to the voices of the Lilith Fair era.

As with most gifted songwriters, you need to delve in. Often the lyrics are deeply personal such as on “Southern Accident,” where she conveys the lingering effects of her parents’ divorce on her own search for more permanent love. “Softball,” speaks to the injustices of the gender gap. “Hotel Amarillo,” for which there is a video, is about those one night stands on a road full of temptation. Caroline, on the other hand, just wants to curl up in bed alone and relax. Another video is available for “Slow Dancer, co-written with Stephanie Lambring, upon which Spence comments,” This song is about the beauty of giving in to love after hesitating for so long. We are all wanting to be swept away and fall hard—we had it in us all along—but we insist on this dance back and forth. There is beauty in that hesitation as well, that back and forth. “It’s all a dance.”

Generally, it’s a quiet, introspective record that tends to wear down a bit as it progresses. Nonetheless, surprises appear such as the gorgeous piano-driven closer, “Goodbye Bygones.” The album represents progress and has its remarkable moments that prove why she was hailed by Rolling Stone as one of the Top Ten artists to watch for in 2015 and why she garnered honors at the Kerrville Folk Festival and several high profile music platforms, including American Songwriter. This album will build on those successes and attract even more notice. Caroline’s own words, which seem to summarize the record, “It’s all love, and it’s all pain. And after all, I can’t complain.” She will be touring the album this spring with another great singer-songwriter, John Moreland.

—Jim Hynes

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