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Caroline Spence - True North Music Album Reviews

Caroline Spence - True North Music Album Reviews
On her latest collection of wise, lucid songwriting, the Nashville artist brings a sense of depth and directness to her songs. 

The spirit of Mary Oliver haunts True North, the fourth album by Nashville singer-songwriter Caroline Spence. Its opening track is named after the late poet, who Spence invokes at its stirring climax: “I’ve been playing at the church of Mary Oliver/Yeah, I’m trying to know myself and love all of her.” Later, on “There’s Always Room,” she quotes Oliver’s “The Summer Day”—“I know I get one wild and precious life,” she sings, resolving to persevere through grief and pain. During her lifetime, Oliver’s poetry was sometimes underappreciated for its plainspoken accessibility and inspirational nature, but since her death in 2019, more critics have come to acknowledge its elemental power. It’s a natural companion to Spence’s work, which is warm, inviting, and unfailingly human.

Spence’s initial breakthrough came in 2013, when her song “Mint Condition” took the grand prize in American Songwriter’s annual lyric contest. (She’d eventually record it as the title track to her Rounder Records debut, with guest vocals from Emmylou Harris.) Even then, at 23, Spence’s lyrics possessed a casual wisdom that could feel like getting drinks with a well-read, Zenned-out friend. On True North, she sings about embracing the present (“The Gift”), surrendering to love (“Scale These Walls”), and taking big risks (“Icarus”) with a sageness that shows the influence of her literary heroes—Oliver, Walt Whitman, the Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön. She sounds like someone you can trust.

Some of that credibility comes from her voice. Spence is a sturdy, unflappable singer. Her gentle, Virginia-bred drawl never strains for a note, but she’s careful to leave slivers of vulnerability around its edges. Her vocal lines are thoughtfully considered and frequently catchy, but they’re seldom flashy. In moments where many of her contemporaries in the country music world might emphasize a key line by belting it out, Spence tends to draw back, leaving room for the listener to find themselves in the lyric. “The Next Good Time” is an ode to perseverance passed down to Spence by her late grandmother, and she forwards its message to her listeners with her signature understated grace: “When trouble finds you, you can just do what I do/Grit your teeth, get through it/And wait for the next good time.”

It’s one of several instances on the album where her delivery verges on a kind of folksy sprechgesang, reinforcing the song’s relaxed, familial sentiment. The sympathetic dynamic between Spence’s words and her singing gives True North much of its power. A lovely mix by producer Jordan Lehning cedes center stage to Spence’s vocals—the layered arrangements reveal themselves on repeated listens, but Lehning knows it’s Spence’s show, and he stands aside accordingly.

The ballad “I Know You Know Me” is the best track on the record, and the most emblematic of Spence’s sensibility as a songwriter. It’s a strikingly direct song about the supernatural symbiosis between lovers, with a simple arrangement that cuts to the bone. Its directness masks a profound depth, as Spence spins canny metaphors of moons and tides, storms and candles. She duetted with the National’s Matt Berninger on an earlier version of the song, but in this rendition, she stands alone.

The fact that Berninger could step in and out so seamlessly is indicative of the way Spence moves freely about the border between country music and indie rock. (The recent back-to-basics collaborations between Berninger’s National bandmate Aaron Dessner and Taylor Swift make for a handy parallel.) Untethered to the lineage of either genre, these songs are ultimately vessels for Spence’s frank, lucid insights, with meaning buried in each syllable. “Poetry, to be understood, must be clear,” Mary Oliver said in a 2012 interview with NPR. Like few working songwriters, Spence has internalized that message.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Caroline Spence - True North Music Album Reviews Caroline Spence - True North Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Tuesday, May 10, 2022 Rating: 5

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