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Caroline SpenceCaroline Spence
Album: Spades And Roses
Label: Tone Tree
Tracks: 11

Throughout this quite glorious album Caroline Spence deals us a delicious musical hand smoothed further by lingering and welcome hints of lyrical perfume.

Spades and Roses, over eleven elegant and attention-grabbing tracks, is honest and challenging with beautifully-honed songs on subjects that include how tough it is to be a woman in the music business where sexism is not a thing of the past, territory explored as well by Angaleena Presley and Margo Price.

But the topics here wander out further, including a brave childhood revisit on Southern Accident and ubiquitous, failed relationships as on the wonderful, "All The Beds I've Made" where she sings: "Of all the beds I've made / I've messed up a few / Lies tangled up like sheets / All sorts of shades of blue."

Spence makes it crystal clear on this, her second album, that she relished and devoured the musical opportunity to open up and be wholehearted. As a result, she displays an alluring and unflinching artistry that is strident but amazingly refined, heartening and regularly uplifting with no slip in style or playing.

Patty Griffin-like tones wend their way through the gorgeous opener, Heart Of Somebody where pedal steel and shuffling drums create a dreamy, slow-burning country delight. Next up, Hotel Amarillo - co-written with a bottle of white wine, according to Spence - starts all rowdy with Crazy Horse at the door before settling into sharp edged guitars and a somewhat cosmic flow.

The young, award-winning songwriter from Charlottesville in Virginia has an unshrinking, candid approach to her lyrics, which means she can slip seamlessly from the poise and heartfelt glory of the wonderful, To Go Down, the first song she's ever recorded that she didn't write, to the bumping, foot-stomper that is Wishing Well, where Kathleen Edwards' muscle comes to mind.

Softball is an instant classic. It's a subtle and playful attempt by Spence to look at society and the way it considers, among other issues, successes of women. Equally, Slow Dancer rakes over individual choices and Spence's vocals are once again nurtured and cradled by a band that nimbly remains delicate but relishes the country roll created. It's a winning mix.

Caroline is heading to the UK next year (hopefully with her band) so her Scottish dates are already in my diary. Spades and Roses is mightily impressive, graceful and bursting with songs that make you sit up and take notice. It could bring its creator to the attention of a whole new audience, and that would seem only right.

Mike Ritchie