‘Carolina’ by Spain (Album)
By embracing alt-country and his family’s history, Josh Haden has crafted an intricate musical document which belongs in everyone’s collection
The new, and sixth, album by Spain is Josh Haden’s concerted effort to return to his musical roots in honour of his dad, the late Charlie Haden. The familiar slowcore elements are still there but are encased inside an Americana carapace, complete with brushed drums, soaring violin and lap steel. Musically, Carolina will appeal to fans of Jason Molina’s work and there are also even hints of Neutral Milk Hotel within the records time-travelling framework.
The Depression presents a haunting picture of New York in the 1930s and the tragic consequences felt by a dog named Marilyn. One Last Look is a miner’s waltz, spinning its way through the tragedy of the 1968 Farmington Mine Disaster. Battle Of Saratoga, with its military instrumentation, presents a junkie’s hallucination as he crashes. It is a baggy trawl through a detached mind who is “Dreaming of the pine needles / Waiting for my next set.”
There are personal moments too. Apologies is a bittersweet recollection of a missed opportunity and is the record’s dreamiest moment, helped by the lack of percussion. Haden’s wavering vocals never quite break under the weight of his past For You is a swampier affair. The rockiest track on Carolina, it carries the weight of devotion, complete with “all my thoughts and all my chains.” The broadest theme comes on In My Hour, a country ballad from the ire of Mother Nature.
Each song contains its own story but together they make an epic tome, a dusty old family history which unites to help Haden understand his own life choices. The album is vivid yet raw with the constant rustic mystique of Southern Gothic. Like those slow-burning classics The Magnolia Electric Co. and In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, Carolina will surely be Spain’s enduring legacy and one that is treasured for generations to come.
Verdict: An alt-country masterpiece