Caroline Rose, I Will Not Be Afraid (Little Hi Records, 2014)

Caroline Rose grew up in an east coast town, a stop on the “heroin highway.” She wanted out; “worked her ass off” and got a free ride — a full scholarship to study architecture. But then she turned away, seeing that vocation as an exercise in vanity.

"Knowledge is such a wonderful thing, right?" she asks. "A lot of people have this idea that it's not really about knowledge — that it's more about getting a degree, or reaching this stepping stone so that you can be closer to this goal that you've set for yourself that is a completely vain, kind of opportunistic goal that doesn't mean anything at all. It doesn't have anything to do with your personal happiness, it has nothing to do with anyone else's well-being. It has nothing to do with the betterment of any situation at all except your monetary gain or some false happiness."

Dubbing herself "a failed scholar and a modern-day hobo," she hit road.

Caroline describes her songs on I Will Not be Afraid as postcards from the road. Determined to be unconstrained, she considers even a broad and inclusive description of her work as “gospel meets country meets blues meets alternative" as offensive. It’s not for nothing that the refrain in “When You Go” is “cause it's your god-given right to be free.”

The polar opposite of such unconstrained living is the robotic conformity described in “At Midnight,” and exemplified in the lifestyle that she lampoons in “Red Bikini Waltz.”  I Will Not be Afraid opens with “Blood on Your Boot Heels” — a song inspired by the killing of Trayvon Martin, and closes with the title track’s declaration. Living without fear in a bloody world is no mean feat. It is altogether fitting that Rose’s pose on the CD cover is inspired by the Native American Eagle Dance, which, she says, honors “the wisdom & power of an eagle in a time of strife.”

Sources for this review include: