Some of the best music you’ll hear sounds so easy. Yet the reality of great music is that it’s very difficult to make. Quality music takes time, sometimes years of hard work, sweat and determination. Making a great album is much more difficult than making a great song. But when you hear a great album, you’ll know it upon the first few songs. It has spark about it that captivates your mind and your heart. That’s what I felt when I heard Caleb Caudle’s brand new album Carolina Ghost. Hailing from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Caudle had released six albums before Carolina Ghost. But none of them captured people’s attentions. So Caudle got sober, put his head down and went to work. This all led to the making of Carolina Ghost, an album produced by Caudle and Jon Ashley. And I assure you after listening to this album multiple times that Caleb Caudle is a name people won’t forget.
You get a taste of Caudle’s smooth vocals on “Gotta Be.” The love song really shows off the ability of Caudle to draw you in and want to hear more. This is pretty fitting for the first song on the album. Not to mention the soft pedal steel guitar throughout will lure in any country fan. “Piedmont Sky” is another easy-going love ballad. It’s about a man waiting summer after summer for a girl to “call his number.” The piano and steel guitar driven tune is the kind of song you can put on and enjoy upon the first listen. The album’s title track puts me in mind of an Eagles song. This is a good thing by the way. The reason I say it puts me in the mind of an Eagles song is because it has a relaxed, almost flawless like vibe about it from the instrumentation to the writing. It has a dreamy feel about it, putting the listener at ease as they listen to it.
The twangy “White Doves Wing” is one of my favorite tracks on Carolina Ghost. The song is about a man looking back on his life and realizing he hasn’t made the best decisions and has went over the line a few too many times. There’s times when he doesn’t even want to be around himself. But he’s come to accept that’s just who he is and he has to live with it. It’s a really well written, introspective song. “Uphill Battle” is a soft love ballad about a man reassuring his woman he’ll always be there for her. Whether she’s scared or unsure, he’ll be there. While on the surface this can sound cheesy, it actually comes off quite mature. It’s the kind of slow song I can see being played in a Texas dance hall. Heavy steel guitars permeate throughout “Borrowed Smiles.” The song is about a guy who always feels like a ghost at the bar, yet he always leaves before the party ends. While the world around him is celebrating and having a good time, he’s trapped in his own mind. It really paints a vivid picture in the listeners’ heads.
Caudle tackles winter blues with “Broken Hallelujah.” While the winter weather and sky brings him down, the presence of his love perks him right up and brightens his day. Once again there’s lots of steel guitar. If you love a lot of steel guitar in your country music, you’re going to love this album. The acoustic driven “Tuscaloosa” tells the story of a heartbroken man looking not to fix himself, but rather learn how to deal with his woman being gone. Every night he opens the window to hear rain just because he knows she would want him to do it. She set out on open road and he’s stuck wondering what happened. Caudle really nails the classic country heartbreak song.
Another standout on Carolina Ghost is undoubtedly “Wasted Thursday.” This two-stepping song is about a man who leaves his woman for the open road, leaving both lonely. He knows that the day he left was just “one long kiss goodbye” and wonders if she still thinks of me after he left. It’s a story of a man struggling with his love of being a rambling man and his woman back home, both pulling him in each direction. But ultimately the road wins his heart over. You could view it as a love song, but I see it more as a beautiful tragedy that is never-ending. “Steel & Stone” features Caudle’s best vocal performance on the album. That’s not to say his vocal performances on other songs aren’t good. They are quite good throughout. But this song on particular Caudle really sells the emotion of this love song, which goes perfectly with the production of it.
Carolina Ghost wraps up with “The Reddest Rose,” where Caudle ponders love he lost and how he’s coping with feeling normal again in the aftermath. He can’t believe she’s gone, but realizes she’s now just a song and no longer in his life. One saying she used to say he holds onto though is “the reddest rose just comes and goes.” It’s not just a reflection on their relationship, but on his life. “The Reddest Rose” is a soul-searching song that showcases the absolute talent of Caleb Caudle.
There’s no beating around the bush with this album: Caleb Caudle’s Carolina Ghost is a fantastic. It’s full of quality songwriting and you couldn’t make it more country if you tried. Caudle’s style and approach to music is very unassuming and allows the music to really reach out and grab the listener. The songwriting is beautifully uncomplicated and the instrumentation elevates it in every way. I think Carolina Ghost is an album every country fan needs to hear and Caleb Caudle is a star in the making. This is no frills, straight-forward, pure country goodness. Carolina Ghost is the real deal.