Like the flower from which she takes her name, Rose may be thorny, but it’s her showy blossom that gets one's attention.
Those nasty immigrants from the other side of the border do more than just steal our jobs. They also rob us of our noble heritage, such as by claiming Texas as their own. Take the case of Whitney Rose. The Canadian singer-songwriter crept into the Lone Star state last year and made Austin her new home. At one gig during SXSW 2016, she performed at Threadgill’s with the town’s mayor playing drums in her backup band! Well, at least she said he was the mayor of Austin (I couldn’t confirm the veracity of the statement). Rose recently released a new six-song EP called South Texas Suite recorded at Ameripolitan Studies in North Austin with celebrated local artists such as Redd Volkaert and Earl Poole Ball. She sings as if the Lone Star state was hers. As if. Someone should tell that Canuck that all of Texas is south.
Okay, comedy is hard. The truth is Rose seamlessly captures the smooth whiskey-soaked burn of the Austin sound, following in the tradition of Patti Griffith, Alejandro Escovedo, Joe Ely, and others who use place as an essential element of their music. That place could be East Texas, West Texas, Houston, or Dallas -- it’s a big state that contains multitudes -- but one that is quintessentially Texas. It’s big, historic, ambitious, and stubborn. The Lone Star state is proud of its independence, and if Texas sees itself as different from the rest of America, Austin feels the same way about Texas. The city’s motto, “Keep Austin Weird” is meant seriously. The town’s denizens value their unconventionality.
And so does Rose. The central theme of the songs on her new EP asserts her autonomy. The best example is on the anthemic “My Boots”, on which she insists on choosing her footwear, clothes, and what kind of alcohol she’ll drink when meeting her boyfriend’s mama for the first time. Rose won’t change herself for anyone and demands to be accepted on her terms. She declares her freedom in a dulcet voice. Like the flower from which she takes her name, Rose may be thorny, but it’s her showy blossom that gets one's attention.
Rose sings about another bloom, “Bluebonnets for My Baby”, on one of the two covers (both written by Austin musicians) included here. The track is as lovely as the state flower of which she sings. She turns the love song into something syrupy and sultry as she awaits the return of her lover. She wants to offer him something pretty when he gets home and is willing to get dirty to provide it.
The EP is short -- less than 25 minutes -- and the last track is a brief instrumental breakdown, so this is clearly more of a stopgap between full-length releases than a new direction after her critically acclaimed Heartbreaker of the Year. That said, it’s a charming, solid record whose brevity is its major drawback. Rose may be a border-crossing, job stealing (Do you know how hard it is to get a good music gig in Austin? Rose played a two-month residency at Continental Club last year, and one could also find her frequently at the Swan Dive) immigrant, but her prodigious talent puts her in a place of her own.