Whitney Rose named her new record Rule 62. For those not in the know, Rule 62 stands for the aphorism: “don’t take yourself too damn seriously”. That wryly fits the contents of Rose’s material. She sings about extremes. Whether the topic is truck driving or funerals, making the first move or getting divorced, being scared or feeling passionate, Rose delivers the lines straight with a twist. There’s a thin line between telling a compelling, detailed story and being absurd. The key, Rose acknowledges, it to have it both ways.
Rose penned nine of the 11 tracks and sings them from the heart, even with a lump in her throat, but with her tongue often in her cheek. This is pure country music, Texas-style, meant for the state’s distinctive dance floors, nightclubs, dive bars, and open-air venues. The adopted Lone Star resident roped the Mavericks’ Raul Malo in to produce the record, and he adds to the music’s distinctive Western flavor with percussive touches, acoustic guitar, and even his own voice. More importantly, Malo keeps the vibe mellow. Even on a song about heartbreak, such as “Never Crossed My Mind”, Malo keeps Roses’ tears inside. She deadpans the stoic lyrics as if not ever needing a friend and never crying are the way one should behave. She hasn’t lost hope as she sings about having lost her hope.
Maintaining the balance between human drama and melodrama is a neat trick. Rose sings in a whispery, honey-dripped voice about life’s existential questions to a two-step beat and the twang of a steel guitar. What is love, meaningful work, family, life itself? Rose may not know the answers, but she shares the passion these questions raise without going crazy. So, when she finds out her trucker dad’s funeral that he has another family in California, she doesn’t cry. She moves on. As Rick in Casablanca famously noted, “that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.” Okay, Rose’s dad had six kids by two different wives, but the truth remains the same. Rule 62, Don’t let it drive you nuts.
That philosophy gives her strength. Like James Bond’s drink, she may be shaken, but she’s not stirred. Or perhaps “Shakin’” is a better word, as in “Can’t Stop Shakin’”. Rose may have some kind of strange boogie fever, but losing control is just another way of dealing with the terror of the 6:00 news and needing to be held tightly at night in bed. She may sing, “You Don’t Scare Me” in a confident voice, but that’s only because her heart’s already been broken so badly that no one else could ever hurt her again. And when Rose croons being “Better to My Baby”, it’s to her honey’s new beau. She knows he was wise to leave her and admits she would do anything to bring him back to her bed.
Rose offers a number of road-related songs as well. She understands the solace of being on the move when life is a mess as well as the pain of being apart from those one loves and how those two things can coexist at the same time. “Show that highway no mercy,” she sings on “Wake Me in Wyoming” with a hurt in her voice that could stop traffic in all directions. She’s not telling anyone where to go. She just wants to get out.
Indeed, whether Rose is trying to get out of town, out of state, out of her mind, out of a relationship, or even out of a marriage, she puts the pedal to the medal of her cold, cold heart that hurts from iced over feelings. Don’t worry about it. Just enjoy the ride.
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