By Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for FolkAlley.com
Equal parts torch and twang, Caroline Spence’s ‘Somehow’ falls squarely into the Americana wonderland between folk and country. The songs here capture the heart ache and heart break so thoroughly associated with traditional country, but they do so in a deeply introspective manner more reminiscent of the folk world. It’s an unpretentious set, content to be just that — nothing more, but certainly nothing less.
The first half of the collection stays pretty close to home, stylistically, with Spence’s timeless timbre leading the way. Hers is a voice you feel you’ve always known, with a high lonesome wallop to rival Patty Griffin’s, though it’s tempered by an air of sweetness that takes just enough of the edge off. The opening stunner, “Trains Cry,” details the toll the road takes on relationships of all kinds. Travelers, like trains, keep moving ever-forward and the pain of always leaving is a heavy one to bear: “I know how to hit the road, know how to go it alone, down some dark highway.”
Another classic country theme rears its head in “Whiskey Watered Down,” a drinking song that manages to sidestep banality in favor of a self-assuredness that also stands its ground into the plaintive pleading of “One Man” and the feisty shrug-off that is “Don’t Call.” Even though Spence’s voice is almost too delicate to cut through and cut loose, she gets the job done on that last one by writing lines like, “I’m so sick of your tired excuses. Every empty word you say is so damn useless. You say you’ve got half a mind to leave here, half a heart to stay. If you put them together, you still can’t find your way.” Of course, it’s all fun and games until the bills are due as on “Hello Tomorrow,” the tale of growing up and looking back. Ah, to be young and in love…
Some of Nashville’s best (Andrew Combs, Erin Rae, Kris Donegan, et al) contributed to the project and Michael Rinne produced with a thoughtful touch that never overpowers Spence’s voice or her songs.