Canadian country music fans find a new superstar in Stephanie Rose, a singer/songwriter with a divine voice that is heaven-sent in this age of inauthenticity, and whose new EPSprout is making a big splash on both sides of the border this winter. Comprised of six songs, including the stunner of a single “Luxury,” Sprout is a grassroots country record that doesn’t ask a lot from listeners in exchange for an entire smorgasbord of colorful tones, all of which feel as natural and real as the woman singing them is. Songs like the brooding “Rusted Love” and the slight rocker “Crushed” will get you addicted to her sound, but it’s deeper cuts like “Old Soul” and the title track that will keep you coming back for more.
The video for “Luxury” is the definition of simple, putting a strong emphasis on its homespun lyrical content instead of overwhelming us with a lot of dazzling imagery. Shot in the style of a home movie, we feel like we’re spending an afternoon with Rose, who for all intents and purposes is as accessible as any fan could ask for here. “Luxury” itself is a subtle but contagiously affectionate ballad, and I really like the fact that Rose didn’t try to overthink its accompanying music video. Again, considering the times we’re living in and the wicked dominance of plasticity in popular music, it’s awesome to find an artist who doesn’t take herself too seriously and keeps her attention where it belongs – on the music.
Sprout as a whole is produced incredibly evenly, and aside from Stephanie Rose’s searing serenades, tonality tends to reign supreme through all six tracks. “Same Old Same Old,” from an instrumental perspective, is about as richly crafted as modern country music comes; “Old Soul” and “Rusted Love” have an earthiness about them that just isn’t present in the majority of releases occupying the charts, and “Crushed” plays out as the sprawling, relentless jam that it was meant to be, instead of feeling cramped or confined by the master mix. I’m truly impressed by this release from top to bottom, because much like the video for “Luxury,” nothing is ever exaggerated or glossed over. It’s just straight country grit and sweet melodies united in a perfect sonic marriage.
An amazing sophomore offering from an artist whose talent is evolving before our very ears, Sprout is a stellar EP that deserves to be credited as one of the better releases in Canadian country music throughout the whole of 2018. Rose is starting the New Year off right by cutting “Luxury” as a single, and if she keeps with the pace she’s at now, 2019 is going to be an even more successful year for her career than 2018 was. This is a very exciting time for country music, and artists like Stephanie Rose are the reason why critics have stopped questioning the relevance of the genre heading into 2020. She’s got her heart set on bringing this classic sound into the future, and I’m confident she’ll treat us to some terrific output along the way.