Canadian singer-songwriter Whitney Rose found a kindred spirit in the Mavericksâ€™ Raul Malo. Malo produced, added vocals, and brought along several of his bandmates to give Roseâ€™s sophomore effort an eclectic pop-country feel. Rose shades more to the female vocalists of the 1960s than Maloâ€™s operatic balladeering, but the slow-motion twang of the guitars works just as well on Roseâ€™s originals as it does with the Mavericks. Her self-titled debut hinted at retro proclivities, but Malo and guitarist Nichol Robertson really lay on the atmosphere, and Rose blossoms amidÂ tempos and backing vocals that amplify the romance of her material.
Even the upbeat numbers provide room for Rose to warble, and she tips a primary influence with a cover of the Ronettes â€œBe My Baby.â€ Interpreting one of the greatest pop singles of all time is a tricky proposition, but Rose and Malo make the song their own with a slower tempo that emphasizes the songâ€™s ache over its iconic beat, and a duet arrangement that has Malo moving between lead, harmony, backing and counterpoint. Similarly, Roseâ€™s cover of Hank Williamsâ€™ â€œThereâ€™s a Tear in My Beerâ€ is turned from forlorn barroom misery to a wistful memory that wonâ€™t go away. Burke Carrollâ€™s steel guitar provides a wonderful, somnolent coda to the latter, echoing Roseâ€™s spellbound vocal.
The opening â€œLittle Piece of Youâ€ is both a love song and a statement of musical purpose as Rose sings of crossing lines and open minds, and the arrangement uses rhythm and vocal nuances that echo countryâ€™s Nashville Sound. She writes cleverly, leaving the listener to decide if â€œMy First Rodeoâ€ is about a relationship, sex or a breakup. The same is true for â€œThe Last Party,â€ whose forlorn emotion could be the result of a breakup or a more permanent end. The vocal waver and rising melody of â€œOnly Just a Dreamâ€ reveals uncertainty, but Rose finally gives in with â€œLasso,â€ turning her doubts into commitment.
Recorded in only four days, there was clearly a mind meld between Rose, Malo and the players, as the arrangements are deeply tied to the songsâ€™ moods. Thereâ€™s a bit of funk on â€œThe Devil Borrowed My Boots Last Nightâ€ that recalls Jennie C. Rileyâ€™s â€œBack Side of Dallasâ€ and Dolly Partonâ€™s â€œGetting Happy.â€ The title trackâ€™s bass line and finger-snapping assurance suggest Peggy Leeâ€™s â€œFever,â€ but the song is actually a kiss-off, rather than an amatory celebration, and Drew Jureckaâ€™s lush strings cradle Rose and Maloâ€™s duet â€œAinâ€™t It Wise.â€ Released in Canada last April, this is getting a well-deserved worldwide push and some welcome stateside tour dates. [Â©2015 Hyperbolium]