Remember when you first heard John Moreland’s High on Tulsa Heat in 2015 and it made you ugly-cry every time you listened for its deeply personal, detailed songwriting and his heartbreakingly genuine voice? You may have the same reaction to the new record, Spades and Roses, from Caroline Spence. Her second release is raw, intimate and at times, brutally sad. Spence has an angelic singing voice that is enchanting and devastating, elevating her diaristic writing to breathtaking heights.
Opening track “Heart of Somebody” grips you immediately with its swooning melody and Spence’s silky harmonies. “If this is the well/I want the top shelf,” she sings, likening her ambitions and thirst for life to graduating to high quality booze and thereby creating one of the greatest metaphors to grace a country song. It’s a song about the aching need we all share for personal growth, and the challenges that come with getting out of your own way.
Spence doesn’t shy away from laying it all out on the table, exposing the darkest corners of her life through her songs. Stand out track “You Don’t Look So Good (Cocaine)” finds her in the position of confronting a friend battling with addiction. It’s an expertly written song with one of the album’s most beautiful guitar melodies. “I’m a broken record/You know what I’m gonna say/You don’t look so good when you do cocaine,” she sings, her gentle voice powerful enough to deliver such a difficult message. Similarly tough is “Southern Accident”, a song Spence wrote about her experience coming from a divorced family.
Still, Spence finds hope in songs like “All the Beds I’ve Made” and “Slow Dancer”. In both, Spence lets the walls come down. The confessional nature of both draw us into Spence’s world and make us root for her to keep opening up and to keep pushing onward.