Marking ten years in Music City is no small feat; Nashville can sometimes swallow unsuspecting dreamers whole. Luckily, angelic-voiced singer-songwriter Misty Rae Carson, a native of the Lone Star State, possesses Texas-sized tenacity. After years of supporting other artists, Carson takes center stage with Mystery, her first album since 2007’s Love Wins, and her persistence appears to be paying off with first single “Woke Up One Day” currently in rotation on stations across the country.
The elusive nature of success can test even the most resilient aspiring artists. Carson, one-half of worship duo Angels Landing alongside husband Jason, considered quitting, but came to rely on faith and friends instead. She honed her craft, playing numerous writer’s rounds and forging relationships with songwriters like Georgia Middleman and Robert Ellis Orrall, who also became Carson’s mentor.
The fruits of her labor are on display in Mystery, a generally buoyant country-pop EP in which the opportunity to explore the unknown is regarded positively, as evidenced by the cheery title track. However, the sunshine-kissed songs still maintain shards of darkness as Carson steadfastly acknowledges the daily struggles she and others face. Carson is able to unearth the drama in domesticity, wringing emotion out of everyday circumstances. Carson’s heart-on-her-sleeve delivery is both soft and steely, suffusing her songs with strength and hope.
The need for personal fulfillment lies at the center of “Woke Up One Day”, a percolating story song co-written with Orrall that is tinged with regret and restless anticipation. Carson lends a sympathetic voice to anyone stuck in a rut, encouraging both optimists and the jaded to take control of their own destinies. As the narrator observes the people around her coping with emotional isolation and disillusionment, she determines that she has no choice but to pursue her own dreams.
These same desires are echoed in the album-closing “More Wishes Than Stars” that cautions people against succumbing to disappointment if their preferred goals never come to fruition. “Some dreams don’t come true/but the right ones do,” Carson explains, focusing on gratitude instead of grousing.
Best of all is the gorgeous ballad “I Love You Anyway.” Caught between adoration and annoyance, the narrator neatly sums up the intricacies of a complicated relationship: “Baby, we’re so different/And we’re so much alike/Why you gotta fight me/When I’m standing on your side,” she questions. Expressive steel guitar underscores Carson’s alternately delicate and fierce vocal performance, making it an album highlight.
Much like Carson’s career, Mystery is a steady grower. Modest but full of heart, it is an album that garners new appreciation with each listen. Carson’s journey has been a long one, but Mystery indicates that it is one worth following.