Following in the boot steps of Gram Parsons, Merle Haggard and George Strait, Caleb Caudle makes pure country music rooted in the genre’s glory days, back when melody, mood and message ruled the roost. It’s not contemporary country-pop, nor is it part of any underground outlaw scene. Instead, Caudle’s music finds the middle-ground between the classic twang of late ’70s/early ’80s country and the raw, rootsy stomp of modern-day Americana.
Raised just south of the Virginia/North Carolina border, Caudle cut his teeth on the road, building his audience one highway mile at a time. While sharing shows with Jason Isbell, Robert Ellis, Justin Townes Earle and other Americana A-listers, he also found time to record albums like 2014’s Paint Another Layer on My Heart, a critical favorite that landed him on more than 40 year-end lists. Caudle keeps the momentum going with his newest release, Carolina Ghost (due Feb 26th on This Is American Music), an album inspired by new love and a recent move back to the Piedmont.
“This record is all about making life changes and coming home,” says Caudle, who co-produced Carolina Ghost with longtime collaborator Jon Ashley (Avett Brothers, Dawes, Band of Horses). “I kicked booze about a year and a half ago and moved back to North Carolina and fell in love. So it all feels like a new start, really.”
Recorded at the Fidelitorium in Kernersville, NC, Carolina Ghost mixes Caudle’s voice with the swoon of pedal steel, the swell of B3 organ, and layers of acoustic and electric guitar. The arrangements swirl up memories of Haggard’s work in the 1980s—particularly classics like Big City and Going Where the Lonely Go—but the end result is pure Caudle, shot through with the optimism of a road warrior who, nearly a decade into his career, has discovered not only the thrill of hitting the highway, but the comfort in putting down roots.
Glide is proud to to premiere “Borrowed Smiles” off Carolina Ghost, a track that showcases Caudle’s penchant for inspirational rock atop a mature twang reserved for an esteemed level of troubadours.
“I wrote this one after I’d been sober for awhile. I was reflecting on all the things I used to be,” says Caudle. “Not drinking changed so much about touring—just kinda not wanting to be at the venue after midnight in particular. I felt like the level of conversation went down and the level of temptation went up. Mostly, I think I just have the clarity now to see what works and what doesn’t.”
“Since this is such a delicate subject, I tried my best to not come off as preachy. Everyone has their own path. I also didn’t want it to be a downer. I really love the way a lot of Motown and Stax recordings were tackling these heavy subjects but masking them with upbeat tempos that were in major keys and had big harmonies. I wanted to do the same with Borrowed Smiles. It’s a party song about getting sober.”