Stephanie Rose’s second EP release Sprout builds on the success of her first studio release Go Where the Wind Takes You without ever risking repetition. Much of this is attributable to her innate maturity – the six songs included on Sprout amply demonstrate how Rose far outpaced her peers and resolutely avoids writing and recording country music pandering to cliché.
The remarkable thing about that final point is how, despite exhibiting such individuality at an early age, Rose nevertheless writes accessible songs built and composed in such a way widespread audience satisfaction is all but inevitable. Production duties are helmed by the team of Madison, a former East Coast Music Association Country Entertainer of the Year, and Clay Krasner, touring bassist for artist Terri Clark and they provide necessary polish without ever diluting the authenticity of Rose’s material.
Stephanie Rose sounds like someone angling to break new ground with the first song “Sprout”. It’s may read like an overstatement, but it isn’t to say there isn’t a note, musical turn, or word out of place in this song and it’s clear why Rose opted to lead things off with this tune. She has a knowing tone as a songwriter that’s drawn attention and attentive listeners will understand why; she gets to the point of things with a personal twist and isn’t self-indulgent. She’s obviously working with some first-class talent on this, but her conception of the music carries the same commitment to keeping things on track and not wasting listener’s time.
The same first-class musical talent makes its presence felt on the second song “Rusted Love” turning their hands towards a muscular rock-oriented arrangement that, nevertheless, manages to retain some hold on her country focus. She shows off more than enough vocal oomph to keep up with the song’s rockier passages.
It isn’t a stretch to say “Luxury” will be a highlight for many listeners. The melodic fiddle accompaniment is definitely one of the song’s standout points and it works as a kind of counterpoint for Rose’s singing. She deserves major props for such a realistic depiction of a family struggling to make ends meet while still hanging together and the success of the lyric, in a lot of ways hangs on the details she includes. This isn’t a gloss job as a songwriter and that’s a quality the EP shares on the whole. She moves away from the ballad style of this song with “Old Soul” by redirecting her musical energies along an acoustic path and the change is another sign that Stephanie Rose is comfortable with any kind of material. The steady shuffle tempo pushing this cut forward elicits an emotional, but highly musical vocal performance.
“Crushed” exerts some outright rock but opens up as a laid back acoustic country number. The order for the day here, however, is blues rock for much of the song, especially a searing slide guitar solo in the track’s second half and more than a little grit heard in Rose’s voice. She ends Sprout with a final acoustic based number, “Same Old Same Old”, and the considered appraisal of life we hear on the preceding songs returns here for the last time and in one of its best forms. Rose has an unquestioned facility for getting at the spirit of life, in all its manifestations, with minimal and language. It’s difficult to imagine a better ending for this EP. Stephanie Rose has established herself, with this recording, as one of the brightest young talents in modern country music.
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