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October 24th, 2016


Americana enchantress follows Raul Malo-produced Heartbreaker of the Year  with more country-pop charm, accompanied by
Haybale!’s Redd Volkaert, Earl Poole Ball, Tom Lewis and Kevin Smith

AUSTIN, Texas — Before moving to Austin, Whitney Rose had never danced the two-step. Now, the country-pop singer’s infatuation with Texas’ rich musical culture, from stage to studio to dance floor, informs an enthralling new project, a love letter to the Lone Star State. Her new EP, South Texas Suite, is a touch nostalgic, deeply romantic and defiantly personal — it’s Texas, through Whitney Rose’s eyes and ears.

South Texas Suite is a meticulous study of sound and place, but also a product of unexpected circumstance. Last October, shortly after the release of her album Heartbreaker of the Year, Rose packed up her boot collection and headed south to play a two-month residency at Austin’s famed Americana bastion, the Continental Club. But that November-December engagement went so well, she wound up staying. Since then, she’s toured with Sam Outlaw, made her European debut and signed with Thirty Tigers-distributed Six Shooter Records.

Rose became smitten with Texas, and the warm welcome from Austin’s vibrant musical community made her feel right at home. Songs started pouring out — so many that she just had to start recording. The first result is this new EP, which will be released January 27, 2017. Rose herself produced South Texas Suite, a first for the poised countrypolitan songwriter. Top to bottom, the EP is the work of an artist who is both an insider and an outsider, an observer and a maker, a listener and a storyteller — no matter where she lives.

“Ever since I moved here I’ve been going out and watching live music, and falling in love with musicians around town,” says Rose. “The music scene here is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. So I have been writing nonstop, I’ve written close to 40 new songs since I arrived.”

She recorded South Texas Suite over two days at Dale Watson’s Ameripolitan Studios in North Austin, accompanied by Grammy winner Redd Volkaert, Merle Haggard’s former guitarist; Earl Poole Ball, who spent two decades tickling keyboards for Johnny Cash; Kevin Smith, now playing bass in Willie Nelson’s Family Band; and Tom Lewis, who’s drummed with the Mavericks, among others. All four play in Haybale!, the Continental Club’s Sunday-night stalwart; Lewis also plays in Rose’s band, along with guitarist Bryce Clark, steel player James Shelton and acoustic guitarist Sophia Johnson. They’re also on the EP, along with fiddler Erik Hokkanen and accordionist Michael Guerra.

The sensuous waltz of the opening song, “Three Minute Love Affair,” with its Tex-Mex flavor provided by Guerra’s Flaco Jiménez-worthy accordion, beautifully sets the tone for South Texas Suite “I love the dance culture in Texas; I’m completely enamored,” says Rose. “That’s absolutely what inspired ‘Three Minute Love Affair’ — as a song starts, the world kind of stops and you’re like lovers for three minutes, and then it’s over and you’re strangers again. But there’s this beautiful little moment in time.”

Of course, no self-respecting two-stepper would take to a dance-hall floor without Rose’s favorite footwear; her heel-stomping honky-tonk ode to that Texas wardrobe essential, “My Boots,” is also a feminist statemen

“I’ll go if I can wear my boots/I don’t feel like high heel shoes/And that don’t mean that I’m crazy/That don’t mean I ain’t a lady,” she sings in her sugary-smooth voice. She sounds even sweeter on “Lookin’ Back on Luckenbach,” a wistful mid-tempo ballad about leaving a beloved place behind.

Rose didn’t write “Analog” or “Bluebonnets for My Baby,” but the “sultry country classicist,” as The New York Times called her, certainly identifies with both songs. In “Analog,” by Brennan Leigh, Rose sings the praises of lazy rivers and “that needle skipping on my old hi-fi,” as opposed to the soul-sucking conveniences of modern, digital life. And in “Bluebonnets for My Baby,” by Teri Joyce, Rose could almost be Shelley Fabares singing “Johnny Angel” to one of her ’60s-flick leading men.

“‘Bluebonnets for My Baby’ is everything that I love about music in a song. And it’s the state flower,” she observes. “I wanted this EP to be a little love letter or thank-you note to Texas, so I chose the songs that I perceived to be the most ‘Texas.’ And I love to cover songs written by women.” (It’s also no coincidence that both of the songwriters Rose has chosen hail from Austin.)

The Bakersfield-style instrumental closer, “How ’Bout a Hand for the Band,” originally was the outro for “My Boots.”

“I had amazing musicians, so I wanted the end of ‘My Boots’ to be a big jam,” says Rose. “But the song ended up being really long, so we had to cut that. But it’s such incredible playing, I didn’t want to rob the world of getting to hear it. It was a cool way to tie it up.”

Indeed it is.

Lauding Rose’s blend of “the purer sides of pop and country” in its Heartbreaker review, American Songwriter magazine noted, “The most exciting part is seeing where she goes next.”

Her immediate plans include more songwriting and work with Raul Malo, who produced Heartbreaker of the Year and will helm her next full-length; they’ll record in January at Nashville’s Blackbird Studio. Then she’ll head on tour for several months with dates in North America, Europe and Scandinavia. After that, it’ll be time to release the new album.
But until then, there’s South Texas Suite, a compelling tribute to the Lone Star State.

# # #

Rolling Stone broke the news of the new EP and premiered this behind-the-scenes video:

July 8, 2015

U.S. album debut . . .


Sophomore Cameron House Records effort features Mavericks members on eight Rose-penned tracks, plus nods to Hank Williams and the Ronettes; Mavericks singer Malo duets on beguiling “Be My Baby” cover

TORONTO, Ont., Canada — Whitney Rose can’t recall when she started singing Hank Williams tunes because she was so young, her memories don’t stretch that far back. But she knows where her love of classic country took hold: in her grandparents’ bar on Prince Edward Island, where she also heard country-influenced genre-blenders like The Mavericks. Her introduction to old-school pop came in first-grade gym class, where her teacher played the Ronettes and other greats.

Though Rose began writing songs only five years ago and didn’t front her first band until a year later, her devotion to those styles quickly evolved into an Americana-rooted form she calls “vintage-pop-infused neo-traditional-country” — a sound so beguiling, it earned her opening slots on two Mavericks tours and enticed lead singer Raul Malo to produce her new album, Heartbreaker of the Year . The Cameron House Records release drops stateside on Aug. 21 via Redeye Worldwide.

Recorded in four days at Toronto’s Revolution Studios, Rose’s sophomore effort contains eight originals and two well-chosen covers: Williams’ “There’s a Tear in My Beer” and the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” on which she and Malo share a sultry duet so sublime, it could turn the song into a hit all over again. Malo contributes vocals, guitar and percussion throughout, accompanied by Mavericks Jerry Dale McFadden (keyboards), Paul Deakin (drums) and Jay Weaver (bass), as well as Burke Carroll (steel guitar, dobro, lap steel) and Drew Jurecka (strings), plus Rose’s main wingman, guitarist/mandolinist Nichol Robertson.
Rose attributes her rapport with the Mavericks to their shared admiration for time-tested country and pop. “I’m very attracted to the simplicity of older music,” she explains. “It’s straightforward; here’s a story, here’s a feeling … three chords and the truth.”
She delivers all kinds of truth on Heartbreaker , which she characterizes as “a classic offering with modern lyrical content.” (Do not think “throwback”; her sensibilities bear something in common with, say, Nikki Lane.) On the title track, she references awards-show red carpets and after-parties, and sings this spurned-lover chorus: “Oh you got it in the bag, your home town must be buzzing/Your mama’s probably smilin’, wiping away proud tears/If I wear a sparkling gown, can I be the one to crown the heartbreaker of the year?”

With a slinky, torchy “Fever” feel enhanced by finger-pops, tremoloed guitar twang and a slightly menacing undercurrent, the song oozes charisma — just like Rose, who nails every track with resonant, well-modulated vocals and perfectly nuanced delivery.

On “The Last Party,” she pays loving homage to Patsy Cline; the charming “The Devil Borrowed My Boots” — which lays a country-pop groove over bluesy funk — may have drawn inspiration for its subject from a certain Nancy Sinatra hit, as well as Shania Twain’s “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?” (A self-proclaimed “big boot girl,” Rose often covers “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’,” and when they share bills, she and Malo duet on “Somethin’ Stupid,” the Nancy-and-Frank hit Malo recorded with Tricia Yearwood.)

“I love this record,” says Malo. “I'm honored to have played a part in making it. The songs are so strong no one could ruin them ... not even me.” Adds mix-master Niko Bolas (Neil Young, Keith Richards), “I should take this opportunity to wax poetic about the charm, wit, and sexy cynicism of Whitney Rose, but that’s a lot of words. So I will just say she has the shit. ”

The album is already earning accolades in Canada, including this Calgary Herald rave: “ Heartbreaker of the Year is as cool as country comes — an intoxicating round of tequila shots served with the salt of despair [and] the refreshing tartness of living life, and delivered by a server who can sass, flirt [and] cuss, and seduce anybody in the room.”

Those are traits she shares with her biggest inspiration, “queen Dolly Parton.” But Rose’s music career actually traces to a less obvious source: Judy Garland. During a stint at one of five universities she attended (“I’m a bit of a drifter,” she admits), Rose started singing in a Garland tribute act. Her previous experience consisted of high school musicals and occasional wedding performances.

She happened to attend a Christmas party with the tribute’s producer; the entertainer was Bob Egan of Blue Rodeo. During his break, friends goaded her into singing. After hearing her do two songs a cappella, Egan complimented her and asked what kind of music she wrote.

“It hadn’t occurred to me before that,” she says. “I told him I didn’t write anything. He gave me a card and said, ‘Write five songs and get in touch with me when you do.’”

She bought a guitar, taught herself some chords, wrote five songs and reached out. He wound up taking her on tour as a backing vocalist. That was five years ago. Four years ago, with many more songs in hand, she moved to Toronto (after a sojourn “living on a farm in the middle of nowhere”). There, she met Blue Rodeo bassist Bazil Donovan, who built her a band including former Blue Rodeo drummer Cleave Anderson. They debuted at the Cameron House bar in 2011; until that moment, she had never fronted a band.

Cameron House Records snapped her up, and in 2012 she recorded her self-titled debut. Her manager invited a prominent booking agent to the release show, which led to her 2013 tour with the Mavericks.

“It was love at first sight,” she says. “I had never seen them live, so I was like a moth to a light that first night.” The feeling apparently was mutual; the band invited her out again in 2014. “That’s when I worked up the courage to ask them to make a record with me,” Rose explains, “To my delight, they said yes.”

She reports most of the decision-making happened spontaneously in the studio, including the cover selections. “‘Be my Baby’ is one of my favorite pop songs and ‘Tear in My Beer’ is one of my favorite country songs, and I wanted to include one of each to help listeners make sense of my record,” Rose says. “Heartbreaker is a marriage of my love of the two genres, in their past forms.”

For a woman who never studied music formally — not even during those five university stints — Rose clearly scores A’s in the college of musical knowledge. And she says she’s learned so much in the last few years, she’s earned the equivalent of a music degree from the best school there is: experience.

“If you go to universities, you’re learning all the technicalities and the basics, but you’re not learning how to do a 14-hour drive and be functional at the end of it. But doing it with veterans and witnessing how they handle it is like attending a musical boot camp,” she says. “And being on tour with the Mavericks is so cool, because it’s all about music. After the show, they’re talking about music and I’m talking about music and I’m talking about music with them, so I’m learning about music. I’m very grateful for everything they’ve taught me.”

Rose’s musical symbiosis with the Mavericks was a refreshing change from her teenage years; with a sweet giggle she unleashes frequently, she reports, “My friends hated when I drove and got to choose the music.”

Now they’re more like proud parents snapping graduation pictures — and singing along to every irresistible Heartbreaker song.

Whitney Rose web site:
Listen to the premiere of a duet between Whitney Rose and Raul Malo via Rolling Stone Country:


Artist Photo