Caroline Spence, St Andrew’s In The Square, Glasgow

Glasgow’s annual Celtic Connections festival brings acts from across the world, covering a wide range of musical genres to the city. Virginia native Caroline Spence travelled from her Nashville home to entertain a large and appreciative crowd with a too short solo set in support of Steve Forbet.

Caroline Spence is a young singer-songwriter making her name on the ultra-competitive Nashville scene. Her emotional and superbly crafted lyrics are often downbeat, yet with a touch of wry humour just below the surface. And her expressive folk voice gives just the right delivery, strong and pure with a touch of a country edge shining through.

Much of Spence’s half hour set was drawn from her fine 2017 album Spades And Roses, the acoustic versions of the songs giving an intimate feel. The opening Slow Dancer and You Don’t Look So Good (Cocaine) give very different takes on bad relationships while Hotel Amarillo tells of a travelling musician, with Spence’s world wearily delivery also giving just a hint of her vocal power. All The Beds I’ve Made was a real highlight, a tender love song over finger picked guitar.

Softball, described by Spence as the girl version of baseball, is a fine song, crafted to tell of much more than sport. What at first glance appears a simple song is actually a very clever reflection on the expectations and limits that society sets on young women.

Two new songs were played, both of which will feature on Spence’s forthcoming third album. Mint Condition, the title track, is actually an old song written six years ago. As a counterpoint to break-up songs, Spence wrote it from the perspective of an old married couple looking back fondly on their life. The album version will include vocals from Emmylou Harris, of which Spence is understandably proud. The song is slow and reflective, and was sung with real sweetness. The second new track was the road song Long Haul, this one full of resilience and underlying strength.

Caroline Spence closed her set with I Can’t Complain, introduced as a song of gratitude. This is something of a bitter sweet track, the country tinge to her vocals giving it a reflective air and again the finger picked guitar was the perfect accompaniment to a lovely vocal delivery.

This short set allowed Caroline Spence to introduce herself to new audience and her music was very well received. With adroit songwriting and a beautiful voice she has the tools to build her reputation further. Look out for the release of Mint Condition in May – it should be a good one.

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