Carolina Girl

Thomas P. Goodrich circa I have no idea...when the world was in black and white.

Thomas P. Goodrich circa I have no idea...when the world was in black and white.

The second I heard Malcolm Ruhl's Carolina Girl, I knew we had to record it for this album. I fell in love with the sound of the mandolin and the violin playing off of each other, the story of regret  and the haunting back up harmonies. We never really talked during the process of recording, what exactly this song meant to him. I had my own thoughts about the perspective of the woman singing it, but I asked Malcolm to tell me why he wrote it. Here was Malcolm's reply:

I was in my twenties when I wrote Carolina Girl. As an ambitious musician working in New York City, I was determined to make a life and a living playing, singing and writing music. I was convinced that in order to get to where I wanted to be, I would have to stay focused, and that relationship commitments were a hazard to be avoided, at least until I had achieved a sustainable level of success in the music business. There was an intentional imbalance between my professional and personal life, and I sometimes wondered if the self-centered pursuit of my career would blind me to opportunities for personal connections that might not come around again. Wherever that road I was traveling on was to lead me, what if I arrived at my destination, only to look back and realize that I had left my soul mate somewhere by the side of the road? I believe I wrote this song as a cautionary tale to myself. And although the journey turned out to be far more complex and nuanced than I could ever have imagined back then, the message stayed with me. For the older version of me, hearing my daughter Maddi singing backup on Cory’s recording of Carolina Girl is an affirmation that I eventually found that all-important balance in my life. 

When I sing this song, I actually think of my father. My parents were divorced when I was seven, and I spent 9 months of the year in Michigan, while my Dad lived in Delaware. By the time the summers rolled around, all connection was really lost. We were strangers, spending a summer together, no longer knowing how to be comfortable with one another. Of course no child can fully understand what her parents are going through what they divorce, but I always thought, what would have happened if they'd "stayed through the hard times"? What type of person would I be? What type of relationship would I have had with my father? Did he ever regret the loss of connection between us? There's no way of knowing.

I especially love that Maddi Ruhl sings on this track. I think of her voice as my childhood self singing to her father. The fact that she is Malcolm's daughter makes it all the more significant.

Carolina Girl by Malcolm Ruhl

Ten hollow chimes mark the end of the day
Ten years go by, silently they slip away
And a Carolina Girl haunts a sad and lonely man's heart
A heart that can never forget his Carolina Girl
Stars fill the sky as the evening grows cold (He's growing old)
Stars in his eyes lead him everywhere but home
And a Carolina Girl haunts a sad and lonely man's heart
A heart that can never forget his Carolina Girl
Had you never let go, had you stayed through the hard times
She'd be beside you today
But if life is to live, what is life without freedom?
Now you're alive. You're free and alive and alone
And a Carolina Girl haunts a sad and lonely man's heart
A heart that was lost in a bet
To the fast and fickle world that kept you so far apart
from the dreams that have turned to regret.
You let them slip away
If only you had seen from the start that the one you would never forget
Was your Carolina Girl.