Whitney Rose is an artist who has always worn her influences openly. Earlier this year, the Canadian singer paid homage to her adopted home with the EP South Texas Suite. Now she's reunited with The Mavericks' Raul Malo, who produced her debut LP Heartbreaker of the Year, along with co-producer Niko Bolas, for Rule 62, which continues her debut's nod to the best of traditional country, '60s girl group pop, and roots rock but finds Rose coming fully into her own as a songwriter.
The origins of the album's title comes from a story Rose heard about Alcoholics Anonymous. After getting bogged down in trying to develop a unified charter, frustrated organizers finally rolled out Rule 62: Don't Take Yourself Too Damn Seriously. As mission statements go, it's an accurate one for Whitney Rose. Despite being an album that's heavy on breakup songs Rose, who is credited as the sole writer for 9 of the album's 11 tracks, finds a number of ways to come at the well-trod subjects from a different, and often empowered, angle.
On the album's lead track, “I Don't Want Half (I Just Want Out)”, Rose offers a rebuttal to decades of male country singers lamenting being taken to the cleaners by their ex-wives with the concise, but final, “you take the house dear, I'll take the train.” “You Don't Scare Me” is a psychological game of chicken with a known playboy, with protagonist staring into the void of past rejection and finding steel in herself. “Arizona” contrasts a frigid relationship with the dry heat of Phoenix.
The best example of Rose invoking Rule 62 comes from the album's undisputed standout track, “Can't Stop Shaking.” On the surface, it's a horn and guitar-laden rockabilly dancer that has Rose channeling Wanda Jackson. But a listen to the lyrics shows it's about an anxiety attack. In a recent AXS interview, Rose explained its origin: “It's a little anthem I would sing to myself when I feel anxious. I suffer from anxiety, a lot of artists I know do. A year ago it started to get to me a lot when I started playing larger stages, so I'd sing the line “can't stop shaking” to myself and it would calm me down.” Rose gets an excellent assist from guitarist Kenny Vaughn from Marty Stuart's Fabulous Superlatives, who can lay down a rockabilly track as well as anyone in the game.
“Trucker's Funeral”, another highlight, was written by Rose but its slice of life with a twisted story of a trucker with families on each coast is clever enough to have come from the pen of Shel Silverstein or Kris Kristofferson. Coupled with Rose's vocal channeling of Dolly Parton, it's the track most likely to send listeners scrambling for liner notes to make sure it really is a Whitney Rose original.
While country music plays out a very public feud over the role of female vocalists in its vanguard, Americana's ladies are producing some of the most interesting, challenging, and innovative music of 2017. With Rule 62, Whitney Rose has staked her claim among them. Rule 62 releases Oct. 6 on Six Shooter Records.