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Rising roots-country star Whitney Rose arrives at the Parlor in Newport this Thursday October 26th along with a lot of well deserved hype. Rose is part a wave of female roots/country artists who are keeping the tradition alive, while updating the style of artists like Patsy Cline, Kitty Wells, and Loretta Lynn. Behind clever songwriting and strong vocals, and a critically praised new album Rule 62, Rose is primed to break through to a wider audience.
I spoke to the singer-songwriter last week as she was on tour, “relentlessly,” she noted, in advance of her Newport show. She had a lot to say about the changing nature of country music.
Although she now calls Austin, TX home, Rose grew up on Prince Edward Island, Canada (population: 150,000), a region you might not expect to be a training ground for a country music artist. You’d be surprised.
“There’s a lot of music there. Most of the original music that comes out of the East Coast is kind of Celtic based, but what a lot of people are surprised to learn is that country music is a real big thing. Consider the island where I grew up, it’s like 10% beach, 10% towns and 80% farmland. Most of the people who live on the island live in a rural setting, and in my experience, people who grew up in a rural setting are attracted to country music. They relate to country music.
What was most played around my house was classic country music. My grandparents were usually in charge of the stereo – they ran a bar and played a lot of Kitty Wells, Hank Williams and Patsy Cline. That was the music I really loved when I was growing up.”
Of course, there’s been a renewed interest in “Roots/Americana” music in recent years, and Rose is part of a wave of artists bringing contemporary sounds and modern production to roots music.
“When you turn on a country music station, sometimes it’s hard to believe that it is ‘country.’ When I think of country, I certainly don’t think of a drum machine or hip-hop. Country music has been evolving, which is fine because every genre of music evolves, but I think it’s gotten to a ridiculous point. So a lot of people are saying, hold on, wait, this isn’t OK anymore. It should be more like this. So I think it’s (the roots revival) kind of a reaction to what is being called country music these days.”
Her new album, produced by Raul Malo of the Mavericks, is getting a lot of attention. The album title, Rule 62, refers to an oft-repeated Alcoholics Anonymous phrase “don’t take yourself too damn seriously.”
“The album is a combination of what I consider to be country music, along with other influences from different genres. If you put all that together, it’s my reaction, a way of saying what if country music went here, in this direction. How many people agree with me, I don’t know, I guess time will tell.
“The thematic part of the album that was intentional was the title Rule 62. Obviously there are other themes, there’s very much a road theme, a trucking theme, and what it’s like to be on the road from different perspectives, but that wasn’t really intentional. I wanted to take situations and circumstances that could be considered negative, things that make you mad or sad, and put a bit of a comedic twist on them. In the grand scheme of things, it’s really not that big a deal.”
The album, however, is a big deal, featuring catchy horn-infused tunes like “Can’t Stop Shakin,’” and gentle ballads that gallop along like “Trucker’s Funeral.” Check out the videos below to see what we mean.
Rose has been paying her dues and honing her sound on the club circuit, opening for bands like The Mavericks, and playing national and international festivals. She noted that sometimes, “It’s damn hard to earn a living. I bartended, I served, I nannied – the last two years I’ve been writing and making albums full time and touring relentlessly.”
She realizes that every moment on stage is special and she’s looking forward to her Newport gig, “It’s one of the states that I haven’t been to yet. I’m looking forward to not only playing there but also checking out Newport.”
We recommend you check out her show now, so you can say you “knew her when.” For further details, click here. Frankie Ranks and the Freeloaders opens at 9PM.