“Low and Lonesome,” the new album from Virginia-born singer-songwriter Alexa Rose, is an instantly compelling and immersive follow up to her 2013 debut, “North.” From the downbeat of the first track, it is evident that we are rejoining Ms. Rose in another time and place, much further down the road on her musical journey than where “North” left off. This sophomore release, recorded at famed Asheville studio Echo Mountain, with full backing band, is a portrait of a young woman who has clearly and proudly been hard at work not only refining her craft as a songwriter and singer, but also living the life and earning the scars and driving the miles of whose fruits are clearly born across these 10 all new, original compositions. While the image of the young girl who started writing songs about bears in her bedroom window is still visible in the outline of this musical mirror, the face looking back is now road wise and confident and is no stranger to the array of intimate themes of love and worth, of longing and youth, which she touches on across this collection of songs with the most poignant and honest, yet humble of intentions.
Low and Lonesome is, at heart, a folk songwriter’s album; the simple arrangements lend themselves to the frankness of Rose’s masterful phrasing, allowing the natural beauty of her warbling soprano to transport the listener to new places through familiar territory- as if riding a new train down an old track. The album’s title is taken from the track of the same name. Written on a hand me down guitar from her mother, the title track is a toast to her heritage and its anthem-like chorus surrounds the listener with the heart and soul of Alexa Rose the artist, and in turn, ties this entire collection of songs together with effortless affluence. “Low and Lonesome is a song about knowing bad feelings are temporary and attributes some of that to the power of music,” says Rose. She sings, “I go to bed low and lonesome, but I’ll see you in the morning.” The song’s powerfully straight forward chorus haunts the listener like the feeling on the morning after a bout with a strong whiskey- a night which could imagine no better soundtrack than Rose and her siren-like voice, wearing paisley and her dusty Frye boots, serenading the Everyman (and woman) in the corner of some roadside honky-tonk lagoon with a somberness evocative of Gillian Welch.
Though “folk” is most likely the term that will come to most listeners’ minds, Rose proves to be far from one-dimensional. “Old Coat” is an instant favorite as it swoons comfortably along, powered by tapping snare and laced with droning country fiddle from Pretty Little Goat Stringband’s Tim Fisher, bringing to mind a young Lucinda Williams. Midway through, Rose relents to a bare bones solo performance on “Still,” a relatable account that is sure to hit home with anyone who has ever known the regrets of lost love. “Adrian” takes yet another turn and finds Rose strumming on her beloved blue electric guitar, “Fruit Loop.” This vintage pop feeling balladry is a vague reminder to the work of Stevie Nicks, as Rose’s nonchalant delivery ebbs and flows in optimal sync with her band. Other highlights throughout include backing vocals from fellow singer-songwriter, Clint Roberts, and sweet pedal steel courtesy of the Honeycutters’ Matt Smith.
Low and Lonesome is riddled with themes of what has already been, of the beauty and pains of the past; however, by the time the choral congregation has dispersed into enthused applause on the album’s closer, “Borrow Your Heart,” the listener can’t help but be left to look ahead with baited anticipation into the future of what will come next from this Appalachian belle whose songs ring as honest and true as a hammer from a cold mountainside. To listen to “Low and Lonesome” from start to finish is to know the most sacred and telling inner workings of a brilliant new artist, but perhaps more intriguing still, it is a journey through one’s own past and most unspoken vulnerabilities that were possibly never before so well articulated.
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