Caroline Spence: Mint Condition
In her Rounder Records full-length album debut, Mint Condition, Caroline Spence lays out lovely, pristine vocals to match the vulnerability of her lyrics. She doesn’t settle on just one theme for this album, but a collection of themes that take us on a journey of life’s phases. This Charlottesville, Virginia-native songwriter shares with us her most emotional work yet. Spence weaves the tapestry of real-life, relatable topics in her latest work. Mint Condition follows up her well-respected 2015 Somehow album and the award winning, 2017 Spades & Roses album with her finest work to date.
Right out of the gate is the catchy, up-tempo, “What You Don’t Know,” with the protagonist unwittingly tugging at the heart-strings of the narrator. I appreciate Caroline’s play on the popular phrase with the lines, “What you don’t know don’t hurt you/It hurts me.” It drives the point that when it comes to love, we are not always on the same page.
The first song I heard from the album was the eighth track, “Wait on the Wine.” One listen and I knew I was going to enjoy the entire offering. Most of us have used liquid courage to say what we’ve been too afraid to say otherwise. In this case, Spence uses a soft melody and delicate yet strong vocals to bring us the ballad of love longing to be revealed once the wine “kicks in.”
Upon listening to “Who’s Gonna Make My Mistakes,” I was instantly transported to the feeling and vibe I get when I listen to Sheryl Crow’s, Tuesday Night Music Club. I really got into Crow’s album when I was in my early twenties and going through a very transitional period in my life, as most do at that age. The theme of the song, owning up to the person you are and the mistakes that you make, is an important part of life’s journey. Spence also relates this song to her early twenties which stands to reason why it resonated so much with me.
The sweet and somber, “Sit Here and Love Me,” is nothing short of soul-touching. Caroline used her songwriting skills to put her feelings of anxiety and depression into the words that she simply had trouble finding when trying to describe what she needed from her boyfriend in an emotional and supportive capacity. “I’m alright my dear/I’ve been this way as long as I’ve been here/I don’t need you to solve any problem at all/I just need you to sit here and love me.” Sometimes being present is the only thing a friend or partner needs to navigate themselves through a troubled time.
All lyrics and music for Mint Condition were written by Spence with the exception of track number three, “Song About a City.” Nashville artist, Ashley Ray lent a hand to Spence in penning this tune when she had the realization that she mostly wrote songs about people and relationships, but was intrigued by songs written about cities. The upbeat yet sentimental song is one I really enjoyed discovering and listening to when I needed a little pick-me-up.
Recorded in his Nashville-based studio, Goosehead Palace, Dan Knobler produced this gem that is Mint Condition. Knobler assembled musicians from Spence’s previous studio sessions and also her live band. In addition, Knobler had the album mixed by Grammy award-winning engineer, Gary Paczosa, and also brought in Grammy award-winning and roots music supporter, Emmylou Harris, to collaborate and sing the sweet, subtle harmony you hear on the title track which also makes up the conclusion of the album. Caroline fostered the inspiration for “Mint Condition” when she was seeking to write outside of her usual topic of heartbreak songs. With her grandparents as her muse, Spence, paints the picture of long-lasting mementos and memories collected throughout a life well-lived. The take-away from this song is that memories may fade and keep-sakes may become weathered, but the way they make you feel will never change and true love lasts forever.
This collection of songs boasts a timeline of self-discovery and overcoming the fear of being true to yourself. The poignant lyrics and strong vocal delivery from Caroline Spence set this album apart from the rest. She has certainly matured and grown into the confident artist that has and will continue to garner the attention it deserves.
Mint Condition is scheduled for release on May 3, 2019. You can catch her Saturday, May 4 at Grimey’s New & Preloved Music in Nashville for a free, all-ages in-store performance to celebrate the album release. Her headlining tour to support Mint Condition will begin on May 15 in Newport, Kentucky before moving on to the Great Lakes, New England and Eastern seaboard regions. In the Fall, Spence takes her headlining tour overseas to the UK and Europe as well as playing some supporting dates in early September for Penny & Sparrow. Stay tuned to her website for additional tour dates and be sure to get your copy of Mint Condition today.
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