(Six Shooter/Thirty Tigers)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Don’t be deceived by the seemingly innocent exterior. Whitney Rose’s outward appearance hides an old soul.
Certainly Mavericks’ frontman Raul Malo — no stranger to musical authenticity — recognizes there is more than meets the eye to Rose since he not only produced 2015’s critically praised Heartbreaker of the Year, but returns for this follow-up full length (there was an EP in between). While neither of Rose’s albums he has been involved copy the Mavericks style, there is a retro referencing Americana pop/countrypolitan vibe to her music that’s enhanced by Malo’s interconnected roots.
That was clear on her previous cover of the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” and continues here with the similarly fashioned “Better to My Baby,” an instantly hummable slice of soaring country/Spector influenced pop bolstered by Malo’s reverbed twang guitar solo and Jen Gunderman’s twinkling piano. Rose goes shuffling honky tonk on the melancholy “Wake Me in Wyoming,” complete with pedal steel, Aaron Till’s authentic fiddle and Kenny Vaughn’s (Marty Stuart’s longtime sidekick) vibrato guitar twang.
The singer-songwriter follows in the steps of strong willed country female vocalists like Loretta Lynn with songs such as the opening declaration “I Don’t Want Half (I Just Want Out),” and the one night stand tale of “You Don’t Scare Me,” where she sings “there’s no damage you can do that ain’t already done/ just look inside my eyes and see/ you don’t scare me.” The only thing missing is her riveting concert cover of Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me.”
Rose goes mid-tempo rockabilly with the hip swaying “Can’t Stop Shaking,” not coincidently recorded on 2017’s inauguration day, and full on Wanda Jackson/Chuck Berry country rocking on the closing dance floor ready “Time to Cry.” She recounts the story of a trucker with two families, one on either coast, neither aware of the others’ existence until they meet at his funeral, against a breezy “Gentle on My Mind”/“Everybody’s Talkin’” infused melody on the classic folk/country of “Trucker’s Funeral.”
Malo features Rose’s girlish, coquettish yet expressive and often emotional voice prominently in the mix. Even with top-notch side musicians, including Mavericks’ drummer Paul Deakin, there is no doubt whose album this is. She pens nine of the eleven tracks, all of which tap into a stylized yet never clichéd, ’60s-influenced era in country whose tendrils trickle through this album.
Rose found a musical soulmate in Malo to help realize that sound in the studio. But even though he has helmed and guided her, this is her singular vision. And with two terrific worldwide releases to her name, she’s just getting started.