These are glorious days for fans of female country rock music. During the past year, there have been wonderful new releases by old and new favorites including Michaela Ann, Ingrid Andress, Brandy Clark, the Highwomen, Eilen Jewell, Miranda Lambert, Ashley McBryde, Erin Rae, Caroline Spence, Tanya Tucker, Molly Tuttle, Letitia VanSant, Kelly Waldon, Hailey Whitters, Yola, and others. It’s impossible to overstate the musical richness occurring during these times; it’s like the British Invasion when the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, and the Who took the world by storm. This time, the music world has been conquered by women whose guitar-based sounds recall the splendors of the past and move them forward with a kick in the butt.
Whitney Rose‘s We Still Go to Rodeos stands out as among the best of these contemporary albums. Rose wrote the dozen stellar tracks (there’s not a bad one in the bunch) that range from traditional country ballads to rocking rave-ups. She’s empathetic to those who have drawn a bad hand in life (“Just Circumstance”) and hard-hearted towards bullies (“Better Man”). Rose isn’t afraid to be romantic (“We Still Go to Rodeos”) or cynical (“Believe Me, Angela”). Even though she offers different perspectives on life and performs in a variety of styles, the songs share a singular personality. Rose has a distinctive independence that shines through no matter what role she assigns herself.
Rose croons with a slow drawl even when she’s singing at a fast pace. She lets the words linger in her throat before escaping her mouth. Her declaration of love, “Home With You” comes across as a slow-burning sentiment whose heat is tempered by the little silences that seem to yip with joy—the feeling for which there are no adequate words. The sweetness of a tune like “Don’t Give Up on Me” shares the same intonations used on the sad “A Hundred Shades of Blue”. The lyrics may suggest different situations, but Rose’s individualism stands out. When she growls, “I’d Rather Be Alone”, you believe her.
We Still Go to Rodeos is Rose’s fourth full-length album and the first on her own label (MCG). She presents the many facets of her talents. Those who know her previous straight country efforts may be shocked by the way she rocks out on tracks like “I’m in a Rut”. It’s full of slashing guitar riffs and pounding drums whose lyrics are delivered with a sneer born out of panic: “Don’t ask me how I got this way / You’re asking way too much.” The album reveals her ability to traverse the modern country rock map.
The record was produced by Paul Kolderie, whose previous credits include Radiohead, the Pixies, Uncle Tupelo, and Hole. The Canadian-born Austin, Texas resident is joined by a bevy of lone star guests including guitarist Gurf Morlix (Lucinda Williams, Warren Zevon), drummer Lisa Pankratz (Dave Alvin, Billy Joe Shaver, Hayes Carll), bassist Brad Fordham (Jerry Jeff Walker, Dave Alvin), guitarists Dave Leroy Biller (Texas Playboys, Deke Dickerson, Hunt Sales), keyboardist Matt Hubbard (Willie Nelson) and Rich Brotherton (Robert Earl Keen, Ronnie Lane, Ian McLagan). During these days of the coronavirus, there’s little live music happening in Texas. Listening to Rose’s new release may be the best way to be there.