Stephanie Rose is more than just another notable singer emerging from the Great White North; there’s plenty of evidence on Sprout, her second EP, Rose is a possibly transformative talent capable, nonetheless, of reaffirming the genre’s traditional strength while always keeping a foot in the present. Six songs fits the model of the modern EP quite well and Rose gains a lot from some excellent production courtesy of RyLee Madison and Clay Krasner, both respected figures in the modern country scene. The beating heart of the album, though, is surely a dual organ – Rose’s voice and the song sustaining our attention throughout. Rose is an observer of life and impressive maturity further enhances the songwriting – she’s garnered a reputation for the storytelling quality of her songs and these six included on Sprout proves it is well deserved.
This is a recording obviously designed and aimed for the widest possible audience, but Rose mixes things up better than most. She starts things off with the title song “Sprout” and it ranks as one of the most singular moments on the EP with its use of unusual instrumentation and obvious, yet understated, debut to blues music. It’s just one strand in a larger thread, however; there’s a lot more going on in Rose’s music, to these ears, than what you hear from the typical young songwriting working in present day country style. The second entry on Sprout, “Rusted Love”, is a well orchestrated slice of Americana rock with contrasting passages of light and shadow linking everything together. Rose can definitely handle these more rough and rumble numbers thanks to the convincing amount of muscle she brings as well as her attention to phrasing.
She hits her stride with the song “Luxury” and even a single spin gives plenty of reasons why. It’s her most vulnerable singing performance included on the EP, dispensing with any of the bluster we hear on songs like the preceding cut, This is a much more cut to the quick, unadorned track than we’ve heard thus far on Sprout – Rose kicks off all the tinsel and added instrumental help we hear on earlier numbers in favor of a sweeping, yet pained musical portrait of a family struggling financially, but keeping their bonds secure. The fiddle playing in this track will keep you coming back to the song, without question, but it’s Rose’s voice and the songwriting that brings the song its strongest allure.
“Crushed” covers well traveled songwriting ground but Rose places her own stamp on the material thanks to idiosyncratic turns of phrase. It’s a slightly surprising headlong dive into the blues as the song has a notable slide guitar solo and really takes flight overall when the full band comes in. The closing cut “Same Old Same Old” continues some of the previous song’s bluesy themes with the inclusion of harmonica and sounds rife with the same improbably hard won wisdom characterizing so much of Rose’s material. The new EP from Stephanie Rose is definitely a step forward from her fine debut and points the way to an ever brighter future ahead.