Whitney Rose: Rule 62

Photo: Six Shooter Records

Keeping 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.

Whitney Rose

Rule 62

Label: Six Shooter
US Release Date: 2017-10-06

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.

Related Articles Around the Web

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.