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Caroline Spence

Mint Condition – 2019 (Rounder)

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

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CDs by Caroline Spence

The third full-length release from Nashville-based singer/songwriter Caroline Spence is an appealing mix of country, folk and rock driven by Spence's smooth vocals. Spence wrote or co-wrote all 11 tracks, the lone collaboration being "Song About a City" with Ashley Ray about the inability to escape haunting memories despite multiple changes of scenery ("I wish that I could make the most of the magic on this coast/Can't see the beauty through the ghost that I'm still dragging around"). Similarly "Long Haul" addresses the notion that geographical change does not ensure peace of mind ("Town after town and it's all the same/They say expecting something different is the definition of insane").

Spence's vocals are equally effective on the ballads that dominate and the country rockers mixed in. Amongst the strongest ballads is "Sit Here and Love Me" in which the singer attempts to assure a loved one that all is well despite frequent battles with demons ("I'm alright my dear/I've been this way as long as I've been here"). The closing title track (with Emmylou Harris on harmonies) conveys a positive outlook on love prevailing despite the passage of time ("But nothing about you ever gets old").

The opening rocker "What You Don't Know" recalls Alison Krauss and features producer and multi-instrumentalist Dan Knobler on lead guitar with a driving beat from drummer Jason Burger, while "Who's Gonna Make My Mistakes" uses a bit of dark humor to illustrate the emptiness of the bar scene ("Talking to this man is like looking at an ashtray/Something was there but there ain't much left").

After a pair of well received independent releases "Mint Condition" is an impressive label debut that should give Caroline Spence well deserved exposure.