REVIEW: Whitney Rose – ‘South Texas Suite’ EP

In the summer of 2015, Whitney Rose released an album that became a firm favourite with country music fans. ‘Heartbreaker of the Year’ was not the first occasion that Whitney Rose’s music was exposed to the masses but her collaboration with Mavericks frontman Raul Mao made a mark on the community that she hadn’t managed before.

The relocation to Austin, Texas from her native Toronto seems to have cemented her transformation to a bona fide southern country girl, although in truth the Patsy Cline, Kitty Wells influences emerged at a very young age.

Her association with Mao began when she was selected to support the Mavericks on their Canadian tour in 2014. Her talent was sufficiently impressive that Mao offered to produce, sing and play on her next album. Although Rose’s collaboration with Raul Mao continues (she is just about to record a new full-length album with him), she has released a 6-track EP without him that showcases her own production talents.

Whilst she admits to a warm embrace of the Austin music scene, it seems that her affection is a two-way street. She has enlisted some heavy hitters to support this project. It was recorded at Dale Watson’s Ameripolitan Studios in Austin and features Merle Haggard’s former guitarist Redd Volkaert, Johnny Cash’s former piano player Earl Poole Bell, Willie Nelson’s bass player Kevin Smith and the Mavericks drummer Tom Lewis.

Her music is a throwback to Patsy Cline’s traditional country but there are also definite leanings towards the 50’s and 60’s rock and roll made popular by Phil Spector and his Philles Records stable of girl bands. The 6 songs on offer here serve as a tribute to the Texan honky tonks and will seriously enhance her reputation as a talisman for the new breed of Lone Star musical diplomats.

The collection opens with ‘Three Minute Love Affair’ that tips its hat to the sounds drifting across the Mexican border. The accordions, acoustic guitars and Tijuana spirit mixed with the gentle Cha-Cha rhythm is reminiscent of the material that Sam Outlaw has championed on his last album, and it is no surprise that they have recently worked together. It’s also the vibe that Raul Mao himself has perfected over the years with the Mavericks.

‘My Boots’ is the obvious commercial standout. Replicating the classic country sound that Margo Price delivered on ‘Hurtin (On The Bottle)’ it works in a way that may just elevate Whitney Rose’s profile onto the national stage. We now exist in an age where Margo appears on Saturday Night Live.

‘Bluebonnets For My Baby’ is a song that could have been recorded anytime in the last 50 years. If a soundtrack is needed for a retro TV programme with the storyline that features a time machine, ‘Bluebonnets’ is your song.  The required dress code for optimum listening comforts are poodle skirts, bobby sox and saddle shoes, and don’t forget the ponytail.

She has stated that her impressions of Austin were enhanced by observing the couples dancing in the Texan dancehalls. ‘Lookin’ Back On Luckerbach’ is a song that will fill those dance floors. She recently said that “when you are on the floor with somebody you’re lovers for three minutes”.

She has already made her mark in the Austin community. It’s time for her to expand her appeal into the mainstream and this mini taster will help to spread the word. This EP will be released on the 27th January and she then goes out on the road for an extensive tour. The good news is that she is including a whole host of European gigs and UK performances, so we get the double bonus of an excellent addition to our musical collection and also the chance to hear her performing these songs live.

She will be appearing at The Maze in Nottingham on 23rd May, The Greystones in Sheffield on 24th May, Cluny 2 in Newcastle on 26th May and Green Note in London on 27th May.  We’ll certainly be supporting her!