Hats off and all due respect to other styles of music, but when you want to hear something that sounds like the breaking of the human heart, nothing holds up to country. A honky tonk sweetheart and certified heartbreaker originally from Canada, Whitney Rose knows this maxim all to well, and has built a career upon it, once declaring that if she can’t wear her boots, she ain’t going.
But for the second record in a row, Whitney Rose has eased off her original traditional country sound that pegged the honky tonk meter at “10” to add a little more old school rock ‘n roll flavor and fervor to her music. It’s not necessarily at the expense of twang or writing songs with a storytelling approach as it is injecting a shot of fun and enthusiasm behind the effort to keep her music fresh for both the audience and herself.
Where Whitney’s last record Rule 62 made use of retro 60’s sounds, We Still Go To Rodeos works more in the direction of the 80’s and early 90’s punk and Petty-infused rock. She’s aided and abetted in the effort by producer Paul Kolderie whose known for working with folks like Uncle Tupelo and The Pixies, which explains some of the alt-country meets power pop feel that puts a jolt into this record, aided by the appearance of guitar players like Gurf Morlix and Rich Brotherton from her adopted home of Austin.
We Still Go To Rodeos marks Whitney Rose’s first record away from the Canadian-based Six Shooter Records, and on her own label called MCG. But with the spunk and attitude found on the album, think of a project you might hear coming coming from the early roster of Bloodshot Records. When she rears back on “In A Rut,” being stuck never sounded so damn fun. “Better Man” holds a similar appeal with its driving rhythm and immediately infectious appeal. By the time Rose gets to “I’d Rather Be Alone,” the sentiments may still be country, but the sound is all rock.
But that’s just the flavor Whitey chose to make sure she didn’t make the same record twice. At it’s heart, We Still Go To Rodeos is still a country record, and you get a full snoot full of it on the opening track called “Just Circumstance.” Rose wrote every song on the album by herself, and perhaps none better than this track that goes from zero to presenting a character and a scenario that feels sharply real in under four minutes.
Most every song on We Still Go To Rodeos is written as country, including one of the early singles, “Believe Me, Angela” and the steamy “Home With You,” but some end up being rendered with a different coating. “You’d Blame Me For The Rain” finds a Bonnie Raitt mood and melody, but many a country ear will find a connection with never being good enough or fairly appreciated by a significant other.
At the same time, Whitney does run the risk of filing her music in that indefinable “Americana” bin with this record. It’s kind of a gamble, but the hope is that that the overall appeal of really smart and syrupy melodies presented with sensible hooks will draw in a bigger crowd than simple blazing Telecaster and steel guitar, while she makes sure to keep the writing and underlying approach still grounded in the roots.
There is ample heartbreak in We Still Go To Rodeos, it’s just delivered with a bit more rock ‘n roll punch and some wider appeal. Don’t worry, Whitey Rose is still sporting her boots. And so can you while listening to this record. Just don’t forget to have a little fun in them.
1 1/2 Guns Up (7.5/10)
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