I didn’t think Carolina Story was likely to create any sort of impression as yet another couple of married folkies in Nashville. But Ben and Emily Roberts are not just another two married folk artists, and their story–as musicians, philanthropists and a couple–is compelling. The two met in 2007 at Visible Music College in Memphis, both well-established musical tastes and abilities as solo artists. After a 2008 camping trip in North Carolina on which they discussed where their musical paths and lives were bound for, they began playing together as Carolina Story.
Since then, the Roberts have played more than 350 shows, all of which were booked independently, and co-founded Traveling Troubadours, a rotating group of artists who favor musical integrity over the beaten path to success and play venues such as churches, nursing homes and homeless shelters. Home, Carolina Story’s third release and second full-length, originally dropped in 2011 but will be rereleased on vinyl July 13 featuring two additional tracks. A wrenchingly beautiful record as it is, vinyl only plays up the grassroots charm.
It’s already been said that the duo are witty wordsmiths in the style of Hank Sr. and follow in the quiet but powerful musical wake of Ryan Adams’ Heartbreaker on Home, and the comparisons are true. Poignant images are conjured in the downtrodden gem “The Morning Bird,” about a helpless plea for spring and sunshine, and through the “whiskey smiles and sad cowboy eyes” in the chipper-sweet Traveling Wilburys-esque “Someone, Else,” whose harmonica and steel call-and-response is god-awful gorgeous. “Death, it lies in wait/Just over the hillside/Digging its own grave in the end,” Ben sings on “In the End,” and Emily takes a turn on bonus track “Hotel Memphis,” with: “You and me are a mystery/I know by the way you cut your hair.” Open ends are left for interpretation as well as chin-up messages written from a beaten-down standpoint; “Woke up today this side of the ground/That’s half the battle, staying up, not down,” opens the vinyl exclusive “Gold.”
While both trade off on lead, vocal harmonies are beautiful and imperfect with Ben’s hushed pitch and Emily’s anguished one, like on opener “Carry Me Home,” which is thick with a heavy percussive footfall, piano and violin.
Carolina Story’s influences reach far down to the roots, and their songwriting mirrors Ryan Adams’ evocative shamed-but-intrepid tone. Since the band has already contradicted the Nashville musician couple mold and toured extensively as independent artists, there are likely very few boundaries for them.
Carolina Story will celebrate Home’s vinyl rerelease on July 13 at United Record Pressing in Nashville with a performance that will be recorded live.
For more on the band, click here