Monday, March 11, 2019

Stephanie Rose release Sprout (EP) and Luxury (SINGLE)

Stephanie Rose hasn’t been writing, recording, or performing for long, but she’s already made strides it takes most performers years to equal. She’s already an award nominated singer, an increasingly experienced live act, and has one well received EP release under her belt. Her latest studio release, an EP entitled Sprout, shows she has no signs of slowing down. Instead, the six songs included on this EP reveal her, for newcomers, to be a singer and performer unafraid to face down a variety of material without any compunction – the nature of her talents is so wide she can convincingly handle any number of styles. The title song begins the EP with a decidedly upbeat point of view sonically – nothing is ever out of control here, but the playing rushes forward with a lot of energy and the inclusion of horns adds an interesting, if not unexpected, twist.

We’re back in a more predictable position with the EP’s second song “Rusted Love” but, even here, Rose tweaks our expectations. Modern country is rife with songs leaning more in an AOR rock direction than steel guitars, but Rose has such a natural aptitude for ransacking rock music’s sound while still remaining identifiably herself it makes her stand out from more customary fare. The third song “Luxury” has a totally different tone, pulling back the reins on any hint of rock, and instead going headlong into country balladry and avoiding any of its hackneyed tropes. The song has slower, much more deliberate pacing and works largely as a marriage of fiddle and piano. The latter instrument doesn’t unwind continuous melodic lines; instead, it builds its effects incrementally and the fiddle swirls and sways throughout the performance with bewitching lyricism. Her vocal really gets deep into the song’s portrayal of love enduring in the face of struggle.

“Old Soul” comes off like a throwback, for sure, but never in a roll your eyes sort of way. Rose is using this traditional style, a likely four piece set up with strong bass playing anchoring everything, for her own uses rather than just imitating the form. She has a remarkable way of writing about serious subjects with a gracefulness and easy sophistication far beyond her years, but chronological age has always been a poor way of evaluating talent. She definitely stands out thanks to songs like “Old Soul”. It doesn’t feel like a rehash; instead, Rose is refurbishing and refitting time tested traditions for a modern audience.

“Crushed” does much of the same. Here, however, Rose is back in rockier terrain than “Old Soul” and anyone who listens to modern country will recognize the style, but she diverges along the way. It’s subtler here than other songs like “Luxury” and the title track, but there’s a level of nuance and attentiveness in her art you don’t often hear from other contemporaries. Rose, time after time, seems to have an astonishingly clear idea of what she wants her music to accomplish. “Same Old Same Old” brings Sprout to a satisfying end despite its seeming light touch. The songwriting has more to say than you might initially assume, but Rose delivers the song with a wistful sigh and the character of someone unwilling to let negativity get too deep under their skin. It’s an ending well in keeping with everything coming before it and provides proof of another strong point for this EP – it is every bit as thought and fleshed out as any full length release and the running order is clearly arranged for maximum effect. It’s these kinds of seemingly small details that make Sprout an even more rewarding experience.

Seth Mitchell 

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