Tag Archives: Whitney Rose

Album Review – Whitney Rose – Rule 62

Rating: 7/10

When I saw that Whitney Rose was going to release an album so soon after her recent EP, I was excited. I really like the sound that she is developing, and her voice is unlike any other I know of today. After hearing this record, I have to admit that I am a touch disappointed. While it is still instrumentally appealing and has some good songs, I have to say that I believe that Heartbreaker of the Year was abetter album to me.

“I Don’t Want Half (I Just Want Out)” starts the album off in a very country way. The lyrics tell of a woman who just wants a divorce. her husband and his girlfriend can have the house, all of her possessions, even the cat. She simply doesn’t want to be reminded of her husband anymore. I like this song’s instrumentation, because it’s very country with the fiddle solo. I like the fast pace of “Arizona”, as well. In this song, Whitney Rose tells of dreaming of Arizona where there is heat, because her partner is so cold. It’s an interesting kind of track lyrically. Plus, there is some really well-done saxophone. Another song I enjoy is “Better To My Baby”. The woman in the song wants her ex’s new partner to treat him better than she did. I don’t think I’ve heard a song speak about an ex in that manner, which makes it very refreshing. Like many songs on the album, it’s faster and not sad at all, and I quite appreciate that.

“You Never Cross My Mind” slows everything down, though. This song is just a bunch of lines that aren’t true, such as how oceans aren’t deep and mountains aren’t tall, and he never crosses her mind. While I do like that, it quickly becomes a bit dull. “You Don’t Scare Me” is a song I find unique. It tells the story of a woman who meets a man at a bar and goes home with him. When the man points out that it’s only for a night, she laughs and says that’s fine. She’s not scared of him, because her heart’s already been broken. There’s nothing that he can do to her that hasn’t already been done.

Now we come to what is my least favorite song by Whitney Rose. I haven’t heard her first album, but out of the songs from this album, her EP, and Heartbreaker of the Year, this is definitely the track I like the least. It’s essentially about being nervous and tense, but the fact that she keeps repeating the phrase “I can’t stop shaking” makes it all very redundant. Not even the fast instrumentation got me into this song. I really like the next track, “Tied to the Wheel”, however. I read somewhere that it is a cover, but this is the only version I’ve heard. The track tells of a trucker who loves what he does, but at times he feels tied to the wheel. He misses his family but never sees them due to his job. I’m sure that this theme is very relatable for people who aren’t home as often as they might like. There is some accordion in this song, and it just adds to the appeal for me.

Probably my favorite song on the whole album is “Trucker’s Funeral”. It tells the tale of a funeral where the person telling the story finds out that her father, who was a trucker, had another family across the country. It’s an interesting story, and like a good book, when I first heard the song I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. “Wake Me In Wyoming” is a sad song about heartbreak. The person in the song is sad about the fact that their relationship has ended, and in order to not be tempted to go back home, she doesn’t want to be woken up until she’s thousands of miles away in Wyoming. I like the instrumentation of this song, but the way it’s sung, as well as the vagueness of the story keep it from really standing out to me.

“You’re A Mess” is another song I don’t particularly like on this album. The lyrics tell of a woman trying to love the person she is with, but they make it hard for her. She loves him, but he makes her angry. Yet again, this one isn’t particularly memorable for me. I don’t know if it’s how Whitney Rose sings the song, the instrumentation, or just the somewhat vague lyrics, but I just can’t get into this song. I do like the last track, “Time To Cry”, though. It’s fast and fun. The lyrics revolve around a woman who left the man who had made her cry, and now she says it’s his turn. I find it interesting how this song is right after “You’re A Mess”, so it could be taken as a kind of story. I think this was a good way to end the album.

In the end, I like this album. I don’t like all the songs, as evidenced by my feelings for songs like “Can’t Stop Shaking”, “You Never Cross My Mind”, and “You’re a Mess”. Still, I enjoy how a lot of these songs are at a faster tempo. I especially like how upbeat “Time To Cry” is, since I initially assumed it’d be slower and sad. This album features some very well-done steel guitar, accordion, and fiddle. I continue to like Whitney Rose’s singing, although I had to get used to her tone on some of the songs. Still, I think if you are a fan of her, this album is at least worth looking into. While I don’t believe it’s her best work, it’s by no means a bad example of it either.

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Review: Jake Worthington–hell of a Highway EP

Rating: 7/10

Jake Worthington, whom many will remember from The Voice and perhaps most specifically from that wonderful 2014 performance of Keith Whitley’s “Don’t Close Your Eyes,” is probably the most promising traditional country artist to have come from that show. Sure, we’ve had success in the country world from RaeLynn recently, as well as some for Cassadee Pope and others, but if we’re just talking about straight-up, traditional country, Jake Worthington is the one with the most potential. You cheer for him when he gets success on the Texas charts and hope his name recognition and experience from the show can help him, because you know he is the real deal, and you want to see that potential realized.

His sophomore EP only strengthens that notion. You only get five songs and fifteen minutes, but Jake uses every minute to further reinforce his traditional country sound and lyrics. You get three heartbreak songs in “Big Time Lonesome,” “A Lot of Room to Talk,” and “Hell of a Highway” that, while they probably shouldn’t have been placed right in a row, still all sound unique and tell a different story. “How do You Honky Tonk” is reminiscent of a 90s radio hit and manages to be fun and upbeat without veering into the territory of cliché. “Don’t Think Twice” is probably the weakest of the five, but it’s still a nice love song, and Jake delivers a strong effort here, especially considering the length. The fact is, it’s one of three EPs I’ve enjoyed this year (the others being Whitney Rose’s South Texas Suite and Lindi Ortega’s Till the Goin’ Gets Gone.)

However, I can’t help but feel that it’s time for Jake Worthington to release an album. He’s given us two EPs now when he could have delivered one full-length project; both EPs were strong, but I think more people would be paying attention to an album. This has been debated a lot recently, but the fact is that more people pay attention to albums, for better or worse, and that’s mainly because Eps often leave you wanting more. With both Whitney Rose and Lindi Ortega, the projects were somewhat of an exception, each reflecting a time in the artist’s life that might not have been captured if they waited to release full albums. Those projects both had a cohesive theme despite their short length and therefore stood out as only few EPs manage to do. With Jake Worthington’s Hell of a Highway, there’s no overarching theme that holds this together–it feels more like a preview of Jake, and while that worked nicely for his debut EP, it doesn’t work as well this time. Still, it says something about these songs and Jake Worthington’s potential that this EP still manages to stand out despite these factors. As I mentioned, it’s one of only three that have made an impact on me in 2017, and that can’t be taken lightly. It took so long after his release to write about this because it’s harder to talk about EPs in general–but that’s also a testament to the fact that this particular EP still deserves talking about. All in all, it will leave you wanting more, but it’s still a nice place to start with Jake Worthington’s music.

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Rating: 8/10

Ever since I first heard Whitney Rose’s last album Heartbreaker of the Year, I have been looking forward to hearing more music from her. Therefore, I was really excited to hear her new South Texas Suite EP when it was released back in January. Given Whitney Rose’s move to Texas, I was curious about whether or not this EP would sound different from her last album.

Upon listening, I can definitely say that it does. It’s still got the nice blend of pop and country Whitney Rose did so well on Heartbreaker of the Year, but with a great Texas bent. That is shown right away on the opening track “Three Minute Love Affair”. There is some really good accordion, and it immediately sets the tone for the song. It revolves around a couple on the dance floor. They had never met before the dance, but for three minutes of the song, they are in the midst of a love affair of music and movement. For those three minutes, it’s just the two of them, the dance, and the song.

Next is “Analog”, where Whitney talks about wanting things to be simpler. She wants records instead of digital music, and a memory instead of a photograph. It’s a really nice song about wanting to get back things that we’ve lost because of technology. It’s not preachy by any means as the technology part was just briefly mentioned in the song, but I thought it was a nice sentiment. I really like the instrumentation, too. It’s got a slower pace, with a bit of an older pop sound.

Following these two songs, there’s “My Boots”. This is my favorite track off of the EP. It’s all about Whitney Rose just wanting to be herself. No matter where she goes, she just wants to be comfortable, and she won’t dress herself up to make a better impression. This song has some really good steel guitar and fiddle in it, too, so that always helps.

“Blue Bonnets” is all about the main character wanting to make things better for her partner. She wants to remind him of all the good things the world has to offer when he comes home. The music of this song really reminds me of 60s pop, and it brings back the vintage Whitney Rose sound heard on her last album that I liked so much, because while it has that older pop flair, there is some great fiddle too. Then there’s “Looking back on Luckenbach”. I love the title of this one. The main character is looking back to the town where a lot of her best memories were made. This is probably the song that I like the least, but it’s not bad at all. It’s got a nice easy pace with some really good instrumentation.

Lastly, there’s “How About A Hand for the Band”. It’s a simple instrumental where the band gets to show off their skills. I thought this was a great way to give the musicians a chance to shine. As Whitney Rose produced this herself, I just thought it was a really nice touch.

Overall, I do quite like this EP. I really like the new Texas sound Whitney Rose worked with on here. From the accordion to the steel, to some honky tonk settings and Texas themes, I thought it was an interesting step for her. I’m definitely eager to see what she comes out with next.

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Album Review: Dori Freeman Impresses With her Self-Titled Debut

Rating: 10/10

Sometimes, when I listen to albums for review, it takes a few listens to form an overall opinion. Often, this serves the music well and allows me to appreciate things I had not first noticed, usually leading to better reviews. Often, on the first listen, certain songs stand out immediately; some above the rest, some that could have been left off the entire project. And then there are rare occasions when an album hits me on that first listen–these are the albums which deserve the highest praise because they take me out of a place of critical review altogether and leave me just enjoying the music. This is connection, and relatability, and it is at the heart of all music. I speak about production and instrumentation and songwriting, but at the end of the day, music is meant to make the listener feel something. With that in mind, meet Dori Freeman, a 24-year-old singer-songwriter from the Appalachian Mountains of Galax, Virginia, who brings us an album influenced by classic country, bluegrass, folk, and the Appalachian sound. You will certainly feel something when you hear this album–and it excels in production, instrumentation, and songwriting as well.

We are introduced to Dori Freeman with only her guitar and her voice, unheard of on any album in 2016, much less a debut. “You Say,” the opener, immediately hooks me with its first lines–“You say you can’t save me, but I never asked you to. Can’t you just believe that I only wanted to lie there with you.” In Dori’s voice, I hear the Appalachian sound that has long been lost in country music. It’s raw and honest, and makes you want to keep listening, accomplishing everything an opener should. It also tells me Dori Freeman is willing to take risks. “Where I Stood” is still just Dori and her guitar, although hear there are harmonies. This is a song about two people in a relationship who are reflecting that their love has died and that if they could do it again, they would not have chosen each other–“What happened to your dreams, what happened to mine? You’re wasting my love, and I’m wasting your time. I know you’d go back if you could, and you’d leave me standing right there where I stood.” “Go on Lovin'” is a classic country heartbreak song, with plenty of fiddle and steel, and more simple, honest lyrics–“How am I supposed to go on lovin’ when you left me feelin’ like I don’t know how.” Dori Freeman has a cry in her voice common to the Appalachian sound that really fits this song.

“Tell Me” is a pop-influenced track, but it’s not the pop country of 2016; it’s the vintage pop sound of Lynn Anderson and reminds me of something Whitney Rose might record today. Here, Dori is trying to convince a man to admit he wants her; it seems to be apparent to her that he does. The production actually really fits this, and if anything adds to the album as a whole–it proves that Dori Freeman knows how to interpret a lyric. Vintage pop worked better here than traditional country, and this speaks to Dori’s understanding of music in general. “Fine Fine Fine” is an upbeat song about catching a man cheating, but it’s “fine, fine, fine, if you wanna walk that line, but you’ll be leavin’ me behind if you do.” This one is also reminiscent of a Whitney Rose track, although with more country than “Tell Me.” There is some enjoyable piano on this track; we need more country piano playing. “Any Wonder” again carries the Whitney Rose-like influence of vintage pop and traditional country, although this is more country than the last. This is about two people falling for each other, and all the emotions that come with it–happiness and fear and anticipation. It’s a more complex song than the rest, capturing the various emotions perfectly.

And then there is “Ain’t Nobody.” I said that Dori is not afraid to take risks–and here is a song with only her voice and her snapping fingers. This is an Appalachian-influenced song if ever there was one; it’s an ode to the workers in the Appalachian coal mines, the farmers, the mothers, and the prisoners–“I work all night, I work all day, well, I work all night, I work all day. I said, I work all night, I work all day, cause ain’t nobody gonna pay my way.” Dori Freeman’s voice is raw, honest, and incredible, and it is absolutely remarkable that this is a cappella. If you choose one Dori Freeman song to listen to, pick this one, because it will make you a believer, and you will have to listen to all the others. It is one I will post here. “Lullaby” is another classic heartbreak song, this one about a woman who is up at night thinking of a man who is with someone else. This song brings back the country piano playing, and it fits the song perfectly. In fact, I cannot readily think of an album I have reviewed here where every song was so well-produced, with the possible exception of Kasey Chambers’s Bittersweet. “Song for Paul” returns to simply Dori, her guitar, and harmonies. This is another heartbreak song, and once again the lyrics are wonderful; Dori is telling Paul that whenever he should get lonely, “somewhere I’ll be thinking of you.” The album closes with “Still a Child,” a song about a man who won’t commit or grow up; “You say you need me, but I need a man, and you are still a child.” It’s an excellent way to close an incredible album.

If you haven’t figured it out, you need to hear this album if you consider yourself a fan of country, Americana, bluegrass, folk, or music. This is one of the best albums I have reviewed, and it makes me glad to help introduce the world to an unknown artist like this who deserves to be heard. This is an album of simple, tasteful production; every song is produced as it should be. The songwriting is excellent, and Dori Freeman has a unique and incredible voice carrying the nearly forgotten Appalachian sound. To add to all this, Dori took risks, like singing a cappella and with only a guitar–and this is her debut; she stands only to improve. But more than any of that, it’s a raw, honest album, that does everything music is supposed to; it evokes emotion in the listener, and it’s simply relatable and enjoyable music. Dori Freeman is a name you should know–and this is an album you should hear, and hear again.

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Album Review: Aubrie Sellers–New City Blues

Rating: 8.5/10

Often, we traditionalists are labeled by the mainstream as close-minded purists living in the past, wanting everything to sound like Hank Williams and Waylon Jennings. We can’t embrace anything new and forward-thinking. Well, sit back and listen, because I am a traditionalist reviewer about to embrace something quite new and different. Meet Aubrie Sellers, the daughter of the brilliant singer Lee Ann Womack and songwriter Jason Sellers. Aubrie comes onto the scene in a time when country music is desperate for women, for substance, and yes, for originality. She brings us a style she calls “garage country”–a blend of country, Americana, and garage rock. Much like Whitney Rose’s 2015 Heartbreaker of the Year, with its blend of traditional country and vintage pop, Aubrie’s New City Blues introduces something new to country music that you won’t have heard before–something not every listener will embrace, and something that is at times overdone and forced on this record, but something for which Aubrie Sellers will stand out and for which she should be commended.

The album opens with guitar licks, introducing us to garage country long before we meet Aubrie. This album is unapologetic in what it wants to be, unlike Cam’s recent effort, Untamed, which, though it showed Cam’s potential, struggled to say anything and find an identity. “Light of Day,” the first track, tells me two more things–I quite like garage country, and Aubrie Sellers sounds remarkably like her mother, which is an absolutely wonderful thing. “Light of Day” is infectious, the perfect way of introducing us to Aubrie Sellers and to the style. “Sit Here and Cry” is an upbeat heartbreak song, which I find quite intriguing. It features some great harmonica play, but the lyrics are nothing special, and the garage country is a bit overdone here. “Paper Doll” is a moment of complete rock–and on this song of frustration with girls acting like “paper dolls” with their “fake makeup,” this approach works. More songs like this would bring the album down, but “Paper Doll” stands out as a highlight, an experiment.

“Losing Ground” slows the album down–here, Aubrie sings of a woman who is going through a difficult time; “But I’m not crazy, I’m just losing ground,” she sings. The heartfelt honesty in this song really sells it, and I am glad this song was more strip-back, allowing Aubrie’s voice to shine, along with the lyrics. It should be noted that this is one of two songs on New City Blues solely written by Aubrie Sellers, which makes me excited for her future as a songwriter. Next is “Magazines”–a full garage country rant about the lies magazines tell women, from weight loss plans to how to get a man. It’s something that Kacey Musgraves or Brandy Clark would sing, and I am not surprised that Brandy Clark was a writer. “Magazines” seems a little overproduced; it feels like the garage country is a bit forced. “Dreaming in the Day” gets everything right–the production and the lyrics and Aubrie’s vocals go together perfectly. Here, the narrator sings of “sitting at a green light,” still thinking of the night before with her man. “Liar Liar” is another one where the production fits perfectly, telling the story of a man in a bar who is good at lying to women. “Humming Song” is the other song written solely by Sellers; it’s another strip-back moment that might sound happy and pleasant if the lyrics weren’t so sad. The woman here is heartbroken over her man falling for someone else, and writing this new woman love letters. It’s the slow, stripped-down counterpart to “Sit Here and Cry”–both are lighthearted songs on the surface, but the lyrics are actually quite dark.

“Just to be With You” returns to Aubrie’s signature garage country, complete with distortions–here, a woman is quitting her job, stealing a car, and generally being reckless in order to be with a man who lives far away. The production fits here; it is just as reckless as the lyrics. Love will make us do bizarre things, and this song does a good job of expressing that desperation. “People Talking” tells of the things people say behind our backs–Aubrie sings, “My ears only burn when they’re not around. Go on believe them, what am I to do? It’s only people talking, it’s not true.” This feels like an honest moment on the album, and because of that, I feel it is slightly overproduced. Here, the style doesn’t add to the song, it distracts from Aubrie’s voice and the lyrics.

The next three songs get the production absolutely right. “Something Special” is about a woman asking her man to do “something special, something we don’t do all the time.” It’s one of the better songs on the album, and one I keep coming back to. “Loveless Rolling Stone” is about a rambling woman who seems to be missing someone–“They say home is where the heart is, and if that’s so, I must be a loveless rolling stone”–what a line. “Like the Rain” is the most country moment on the album; it’s a song about a man who “floods my heart, then leaves it desert dry.” I am glad this song lets Aubrie’s voice shine and tell us the story. She really conveys the sadness of the woman in this song well. The album closes with the full garage country “Living is Killing Me.” Honestly, I’ve listened to this song four times, and I can’t quote a line. It’s not bad, it’s just unnecessary. Fourteen songs is generally too many for an album, and this one feels like filler, and further forces the style.

Overall, this is a great album. Aubrie Sellers has a remarkable voice, and her unique garage country style is original and suits her. Still, there are moments of overproduction, where the style is simply overdone. Having said that, this is, for the most part, an excellent debut. New City Blues brings something new to the table, and it’s definitely worth checking out.

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