Hitting us with a melodic flurry right out of the gate in “Doin’ Wrong Feel Right,” Charlsey Etheridge’s Scars of Mine starts with its most potent of tones and gets more enrapturing as we progress through its ten-song tracklist. I was taken with “Doin’ Wrong Feel Right” immediately and had high hopes to hear its artistic parameters blown out as far as they could run before falling into the dissonance of country frills, and much to my pleasure, that’s exactly what Scars of Mine is. This is a limitlessly creative piece for Etheridge, incorporating postmodern country influences into “Rhythm of Love” as seamlessly as she would a smooth beat in “Back to You,” and if you were looking for something a bit more solemn this summer, you’d better look elsewhere. 

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Scars of Mine’s danceable moments, such as the emotive jam “Midnight Train,” are countered by a lumbering feel in “Did You” and “Time” that could smother a less capable lyricist but work out for our songstress quite well here. She’s got a lot of muscle in the studio, and I think she knows it; there’s a sincere cockiness to “Did You” and “Time” that feels natural and not entirely out of place for the narrative she’s trying to build out of both songs jointly (though separated by “Did You,” in the tracklist, of course). Attitude can be appealing but it can also be rather expressive in the hands of a singer/songwriter of Etheridge’s pedigree. 

The stunner of a song “Did You,” has the most extroverted personality in terms of rhythm and rhyme here, but it doesn’t set off a chain of anxious beats in the latter half of Scars of Mine at all – that would have instilled too much consistency here. We need to come into the title track unprepared for its foggy harmony, which brought to mind a slow, translucent vibe that we haven’t been seeing much in the mainstream variations of this music lately, rather than feeling like we know what’s about to hit us around the next corner. That eliminates so much of the radiant tension Etheridge is using as a catalyst for communication in this material, which would have changed my listening experience with this LP entirely. 

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We come to the conclusion of Scars of Mine in a pairing of the powerhouse “So Long” and the more surreal tune “Midnight Train (Acoustic),” both of which line up none of the aforementioned aesthetical concepts we crossed on our way to the finish line in this record. Wholeheartedly, I think that Charlsey Etheridge wanted it this way. She didn’t lead us into this LP intending on giving us a newly-stylized version of what we heard in previous works to bear her name; she wants to give the audience another layer of herself, her music, her artistry in this piece, and I would have to say she hit it out of the park here. Amiable but still quite bewitching and relentlessly affectionate, Scars of Mine is unmissable if you appreciate quality country music. 

Garth Thomas