Carousel (Nine Mile Records)
Reviewed by Doug Freeman, Fri., Nov. 9, 2018
For fans following Carson McHone since 2015 debut LP Goodluck Man, the native honky-tonker's long-awaited sophmore album is somewhat of an inevitable letdown – not in quality but simply in offering little new material after three years. Then again, Carousel isn't necessarily intended for local listeners, but rather as a national introduction spotlighting a redo of the debut material, now with Mike McCarthy guiding production. Eight of the 11 tracks are retreads, and although McCarthy provides a fuller and more polished sound, he largely follows the arrangements of the original recordings and lets McHone's stellar songwriting and vocals remain the primary focus, falling somewhere between Emmylou Harris' sighing control and Patty Griffin's power. The exceptional "How 'Bout It" stands out, now given a piano backing and slowed to settle into the aching want, while elsewhere steel and pedal wash delicately in support. Among the new songs, "Sad" leads the platter with a waltz that winds into a measured upbeat dance floor turn and surprise electric guitar kick. Live staples "Drugs" and "Spider Song" shine, the former slowly spinning into a corkscrew swell and the latter closing Carousel with a harmonium wheeze. Given the promise of McHone's young talent, fans can be thankful at least that she's being given the rare time to develop her songwriting for the long-haul, even if that means simply another go-round right now.