Album Review – Caroline Spence’s “True North”

Caroline Spence continues her run of critically excellent albums full of exquisitely-crafted and beautiful songs, validating how criminally under-the-radar she continues to be compared to the quality and resonance of her music, making as strong of a case as ever for herself in her latest distinctive effort called True North. A true Americana artist who resists the urge to get too freaky or too preachy to meet arbitrary trends of the day, Spence instead just focuses on writing and performing emotionally impactful songs, and letting the music speak for itself in a refreshingly unpretentious manner.

If music is a drug, this isn’t an upper, or a downer, or an aphrodisiac. It’s something you take to give youself the confidence and assurance to get through life’s tribulations, whether those are earth-shattering moments like deaths and breakups, or just the everyday doubts that creep into quiet moments. To accomplish this, Caroline Spence relies on the incisiveness of her insight, delivered with a poetic smartness that may challenge the audience to pay attention intently, but rewards them for the effort.

Writing or co-writing all twelves songs, Caroline teams up with producer Jordan Lehning, who is the son of legendary country producer Kyle Lehning (Randy Travis), and who is quickly becoming one of the most accomplished producers in the business. Taking a thoughtful and classic Americana approach to this record, it’s understated when it needs to be, may feel a little sleepy at first, but adds just the right amount of country texturing and tempo when it’s called for without getting in the way of the songs.

But of course it’s Caroline Spence’s lyrical imagery, her sense of melody, her absolutely adorable voice, and subtle but sincerely effective chorus hooks that steer you toward serial listens of some of the songs on this record, and have you humming along for the rest of your day and into the next.

Start perhaps with “Scale These Walls,” with the steel guitar mimicking the tugging of heart strings, and Spence admitting to the building of emotional barriers, but only for them to be compromised by someone who cares enough to win her heart, resulting in a come hither message, but one as complex as actual human relationships. “Clean Getaway” inspired by Caroline reconnecting with her inner child is another song that gets delightfully stuck in your head.

Yes, True North is a slow to mid-tempo affair, often relying on melodic and atmospheric elements as opposed to guitar riffs and instrumentation for attention. It’s mood music. The more animated “Icarus” does give the record some important vitality, but country fans still may favor the slower, but immersive tracks like “Blue Sky Rain” and “Forget To Rest” that offer such great mood resets in a wild and busy world hard to make sense of.

Not enough noise will be be made about Caroline Spence’s True North, because that is so often the fate of albums such as this that don’t put an ostentatious display for attention, and assume a patient and intent audience. It’s a singer/songwriter album with a sincere approach. But for those who want to slow down, listen, and be wowed, few records will replicate the beauty captured here.

8.2/10

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