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Paulette Carlson - It's About Time
By: George Peden, CSO Staff Journalist

Paulette Carlson is the remembered whirlwind who propelled popular 80s country band Highway 101. In her various tenures with the band who took their name from a main north-south highway on the Pacific Coast – she left in 1990, only to return for the band’s 10-year reunion in ’95, finally to leave again -- she was the vocal charmer responsible for many of their high charting hits. Those hits included “Whiskey, If You Were A Woman”, “The Bed You Made For Me”, Somewhere Tonight” and “Cry, Cry, Cry”. And it’s easy to hear why they, and others, had pulling power. Grit, emotion and slap-ya-in-the-face lyrical charm – Carlson packs it all.

All those qualities return on her latest and self-produced release. With an expressive writing style nailing the needed elements for a crafted song, well displayed on her 12 track set (she wrote10) Carlson provides a feisty and defiant approach. It proves, convincingly, her album title tells the truth, that after a missed absence – It’s About Time.

Going from first chord to the last twangy vocal, the album took only 11 days to complete. However, the inspiration; a little longer. After being off the scene for eight years because of family ties, Carlson, as she reveals in her album liner, felt the need to come out of retirement. The push came with a simple and heart honest tune she’d written, “Thank You Vets”. In her words: “It was a song that needed to be heard.”

As shared in her bio, the song, inspired by her brother and other Vietnam vet friends, only took 10 minutes to write. “I knew after I’d written it that I would be going back to work. I felt a great responsibility to this piece of work,” Carlson tells, “I just couldn’t put it on the shelf with the other songs I had written”. 

And as a powerful message of deep and respectful homage, the song addresses the debt we collectively owe to those who went to serve. Political correctness and ideology aside, those old enough to remember will recall the public contempt and distrust that surrounded the Vietnam War – and those who heeded the call. It’s taken many, many years to correct the wrongs, but this tune tries, and on many levels succeeds; it’s due in part to Carlson’s sensitive lyrics and her obvious understanding of the times and the prevailing sentiments.

When she sings, “We owe a debt/ to our Vietnam Vets/ and never a thank you we gave / and I hung my head in shame at the hurtful words and the names/they had to hear from American lips,” it stings with a shameful truth. “Your unspoken words said volumes/and the road you walked we can’t imagine/a soldier’s weight you carry still with grace/and although it’s much too late/ the truth can’t be changed/we owe you the thank you that never came.”

It’s plain to hear how the Minnesota-raised and now Nashville-residing Carlson was influential and popular in her Highway 101 heyday -- she can mine a song, tapping into its ore with honest intensity. One of the album’s better cuts, and believe me there are no duds, fillers or track wasters here, is the poignant “That Old Glass Case”. The strong bond of trinkets, housed in the glass case in the corner, reminds in the most powerful of ways to value those we love while we have the time to tell them. It’s a moving song with understood sentiment. 

Complicated love is the theme on “I Wish You Wouldn’t Stand Quite So Close,” while “He’s Funny That Way” touches on the virtues of a good and reliable partner, highlighting the lesson: family first, self second keeps the home fire on an even kindle. Patriotic pride comes fully captured in “She Rides For The Brand” and “Only In Your Dreams” tells how hopeful thinking and cold reality are beds apart.

A song for pondering by listeners with a few miles on the clock is “Twenty Years Ago”. Time, they say, waits for no-one. Too true. The tune travels the road time has worn, recounting people, places and events. It’s a lyrical mirror to how fast our life moves. And while it doesn’t step into the Tim McGraw slipstream of self-improvement heard on “My Next Thirty Years” or “Live Like You Were Dyin’” the tune is a thought-transplanter. 

The grooves on my copy of Carlson’s latest have all but worn thin. In my house, this CD has been on high rotation. It’s a charmed album. It offers thoughtful and reflective tunes, all shaped by a distinctive voice fashioned on know-how country. Paulette Carlson has been away too long. It’s good to have her back. Along with her fans, I can only say one thing: It’s about time.


To purchase the CD online just click on the album cover.

1: I Knew A Good Thing When I Had It
2: That Old Glass Case
3: I Wish You Wouldn't Stand Quite So Close
4: Cowgirl Angel
5: Only In Your Dreams
6: My Love Is In America
7: He’s Funny That Way 
8: She Rides For The Brand 
9: Twenty Years Ago 
10: Thank You Vets
11: Rejoice For The Moment
12: It’s About Time Now

Related Links:
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