Album Review – Whitney Rose’s “Rosie”

photo: Lyza Renne

Country music is the genre you turn to when you’re in pain. No offense to any other forms of music or their respective applications, but you can’t beat country for nursing a broken heart, commiserating with others, or trying to come back from an ailment. There’s a reason many of those old Grand Ole Opry broadcasts were often dedicated to “the sick and shut in” who couldn’t be there or anywhere else in person. People could find comfort from the pain from the music coming out of their console radios.

Whitney Rose spent over a decade doing what she could to alleviate the pain of others through the medium of country music. For her that meant moving away from her home in Canada, cultivating a career and a grassroots following by earning a residency at Austin’s iconic Continental Club where she spent years playing a Happy Hour slot, and touring around the country every chance she could. Little did she know she would be the one in need of help eventually.

An undisclosed, but devastating illness put Whitney Rose down for the count in December of 2022, including a stint in the hospital. Unable to work, and in a tremendous amount of pain, she was forced to move back home to Prince Edward Island in Canada, and convalesce. At that point, it was just as much about survival as anything else, and her music career had to be put on pause. But through that pain, she has persevered to release Rosie, which takes her own pain and struggles, and puts them to good use in an exquisite traditional country record.

Where Whitney’s last album We Still Go To Rodeos took a more country rock approach, Rosie goes back to her country roots, and in a big way. This is a twangy, heartbreaker of a country record, and whatever physical anguish Whitney may be in, she sings through it, finds strength and inspiration from it, and delivers in front of a crack group of Austin musicians that includes guitarist Dave Biller, multi-instrumentalist Rich Brotherton, Warren Hood on fiddle, Brad Fordham on bass, and Lisa Pankratz on drums.

Some of these songs may have been written or recorded before Whitney Rose’s latest health woes, but they sure do work to relay her present situation, none better than the devastating “Minding My Own Pain.” When you’re stuck somewhere and can’t leave, sometimes the only relief is going somewhere nicer in your mind, like a “Honky Tonk in Mexico,” or to Memphis like Rose sings about in “Memphis In My Mind.”

Sometimes it helps to reminisce on warm memories from the past like Whitney does on the sole song she did not write for the album, “Can’t Remember Happiness” by Joanne Mackell. The writing on the album is pretty excellent, while remaining accessible, like the reflective “My Own Jail,” or the great classic country shuffle “You’re Gonna Get Lonely.”

The name of the album is Rosie since that’s the nickname that Whitney Rose’s husband, manager, and producer Michael McKeown uses. The personal relationship continues, but the professional one comes to a conclusion with this album. But not before Rosie marks perhaps Whitney Rose’s top contribution to traditional country music, and one that may go on to be considered one of the top releases in country music in 2023.

Taking the pain in life and making it into human expressions that have the innate power to heal is what the greatest country music is all about. It’s like chicken soup for the soul, and Rosie‘s recipe here is especially efficacious.


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