“Scars of Mine” LP by Charlsey Etheridge

There are only two ways of working a retro element into your sound these days if you’re in country music; either describing your old-guard influences with imagistic lyricism or embodying the energy of a classic era through the tone of your performance. I wasn’t quite sure which group Charlsey Etheridge belonged in before listening to her new LP Scars of Mine ahead of its official release date, but now that I have, I think she’s a member of the latter without any need for debate. She doesn’t just use verses as a means of setting the mood up in her music; in Scars of Mine, her very execution is an extension of any narrative she would construct with us utilizing words.

ABOUT THE ARTIST: www.charlseyetheridge.com/

The classic Nashville feel is impossible for us to escape in the harmonies of “Doin’ Wrong Feel Right,” “Back to You,” and “Midnight Train (Acoustic),” and the mixing of each song supports the insular sonic atmosphere of a small club. There’s a big difference between trying to make a throwback and employing the rusticity of an iconic style as a means of getting something original across to us, and in this record, Etheridge defines that difference with her willingness to embrace aesthetical cues from country, folk, and a moderate dose of Americana as well. There are moments when it seems like eclecticism never knew such unbridled control over an album, but it works to this singer/songwriter’s benefit because it both humanizes her every statement and reaches out to us in a relatable way.

“Time,” “Did You,” “Rhythm of Love” and “So Long” feature beats that tell us a story through their interactions with Etheridge, and although Scars of Mine is far from a straight-up progressive country piece, I think they anchor the sentiments of this record as a complete offering. There’s a narrative much greater than the individual emotions being brought to the table in these individual tracks, and it’s both unguarded and completely driven by the instrumental faceting in this LP and not specific lyrics. It’s honestly hard to describe something like this without using the word ‘vibe,’ as that perhaps best captures the continuity of the material without overstating some cohesiveness other acts would have made cheesy.

Scars of Mine has been really hard for me to put down since I first heard it, and I think Charlsey Etheridge is onto something original in her music right now. She’s got more swagger in her step than she did in her last record – a fine listen in its own right – and if it’s put to use in the right way, I believe her momentum could become pretty difficult for the competition to stifle, regardless of whether she sticks with an indie path or goes a little more mainstream in her next studio album.

I’m impressed by how experimental she’s getting in these nine songs and personally hope to hear her getting even more elaborate with her style the next time she hits the recording booth to come up with fresh sounds.

Clay Burton