Whether it’s the crackling fire that welcomes us into Stephanie Rose’s cabin in the new music video for her single “Luxury,” or the white hot rhythms that make up the foundation of the songs “Crushed” and “Sprout,” the title track of her latest EP, their temperatures pale in comparison to the heat that the songwriter brings anytime that she starts to sing. In both the video and Sprout itself, listeners are invited to experience Rose’s sound in all of its raw, unvarnished glory, without any external filtration to come between the artist and her audience. The smooth string arrangement that stokes the flames of “Same Old Same Old” is one of the finer examples of the organic tonality that is to be discovered on Sprout, but the rustic strings and soaring harmonies aren’t isolated to this track alone. The winding “Crushed” sports a sultry minor key intro that eventually gives way to a rocking chorus flanked with country twang and pulsating rhythm that comes out of nowhere and smacks us in the face with its physicality. You don’t have to be a country fan to appreciate the artistry of Stephanie Rose, but for those of us who are, it doesn’t get much better than this.
“Old Soul” has the pensiveness of an old fashioned folk song but the wit and irony of something that is decidedly more Nashville than it is anything else. The Canadian crooner lays into one shimmering melody after another in this song, and the backing band doesn’t even attempt to cage her beastly lyrical bite. The principle single from Sprout, “Luxury,” and its music video go hand in hand in my opinion, playing off of the barebones nature of the composition by presenting us with an equally stripped down visual experience to match. It isn’t the bells and whistles of a Carrie Underwood video, but that’s precisely why it’s as imaginative and relevant to indie country as it is. Country music that relies too much on cosmetics and post-production polish to make what amounts to an acoustic, honest statement just doesn’t come close to equaling the emotive passion that Stephanie Rose’s songs are brimming with in every instance (and especially in this video).
Sprout’s title track starts up the whole record on a high note, searing its acerbic, fun-loving energy into our hearts on the strength of a subtle beat and a bulging melody. It’s not the powerhouse ballad that “Rusted Love” (the song that immediately follows it) is, but then again, very few are. “Rusted Love” sold Sprout to me on so many levels, not only because of its trademark hook, but because of its strangely ambient sway that is hypnotic and impossibly easy to get lost in. No matter what you’re looking for, my money says that country fans are going to find it in Stephanie Rose’s new EP, and likely the video for her single “Luxury” as well. She’s got a talent that just won’t quit, and from where I sit it wouldn’t appear that she’s going to be heading anywhere except towards the top of the Nashville hierarchy from here on out.