We do indeed have our gems.
Perhaps more specifically rhinestones.
Canada has, over the past couple of years, produced some remarkable female country artists, who are torchbearers for the way it was done when it was done right and those who can take it into the future.
Artists such as Jess Moskaluke and Kira Isabella.
Hell, even on a local level we can lay claim to some, including Lindsay Ell, Sykamore, Mariel Buckley, Maddison Krebs, Trinity Bradshaw, the good ladies of Nice Horse and the freshly-minted Calgarian Lindi Ortega.
Oh, and, a gem by another name, there’s also a Rose. Whitney Rose.
OK, technically, Rose isn’t local. In fact, the P.E.I.-born artist doesn’t even reside in this country any more, having relocated to the Lone Star State last year.
But, should things in Trumpistan go a little more southerly for those who don’t have the stars and stripes tattooed on the soles of their feet, please know that the offer has been extended that she will, of course, be welcomed into our community with open arms and western hospitality.
“Well, thank you,” she says with a laugh from a stop in Toronto.
“I don’t know if I could deal with the winters any more, though. Austin ruined me. I used to be pretty tough, but I haven’t gotten warm since we passed Detroit.”
Perhaps we can thaw her out when she hits town Saturday night for a show at the Commonwealth and her opening act, the aforementioned treasure Buckley, can help sway her by singing the praises of the city and its pretty exceptionally cool country scene.
That said, it could be a fairly tough sell considering she’s already proclaimed her love for her new home and in a fairly permanent and public setting — her recently released six-song EP South Texas Suite.
The record is something of a stop-gap to slake the thirst of those who were intoxicated, justly, by her astoundingly wonderful 2015 release Heartbreaker of the Year and couldn’t wait for its full-length followup, which, due to the release schedule of her new label, Canuck roots homestead Six Shooter Records, meant that it wouldn’t arrive until near the end of the 12 months that make up this calendar.
With that marketing delay imposed on the record, which was recorded in Nashville with Heartbreaker’s helmsman, The Mavericks’ Raul Malo, Rose thought it would be fitting to return the warm embrace she immediately felt from her new community and “record tunes that were inspired by Texas, and Austin specifically, in Texas, so it made sense,” she says. “And basically my label gave me permission to go ahead and do it.
“When all of this was happening I’d been living in Austin for a few months and I had all of these new tunes and I was really in the music scene there and, um, really falling in love with Austin.
“So it kind of wrote itself.”
Well, she wrote it and produced it — the latter which she calls “challenging and exciting” — but it was informed almost entirely from the area, its music, its vibe and the players who took her in.
South Texas Suite is a sweet, vintage take on Tex-Mex, cactus country, and, other than Rose’s honeysuckle singing and nimble strumming, features some remarkable work by noted session players such as Johnny Cash player Earl Poole Ball and Merle Haggard sideman Redd Volkaert.
From songs such as the aching opener Three Minute Love Affair and the wistful Lookin’ Back on Luckenbach (“I’m a huge sucker for plays on words,” she laughs) to the instrumental closer How ’Bout A Hand for the Band, it’s authentic as authentic can be, all heart, honky tonk and twang.
And it’s already connecting, with the reviews from respected C&W publications and websites uniformly and deservedly glowing.
Rose acknowledges that it’s but one more step forward in a career that, perhaps due to the less glittery and pop quality of the music, has been one of a gradual pace rather than that rocket upwards.
“It certainly feels very slow but I’m also just really grateful that it seems to be going in the right direction,” she says.
“It hasn’t really stopped, so I’m just really grateful to be able to make records whenever I want — that’s a very privileged position. Having been in a number of different music scenes I’ve seen people who have the songs, but don’t have the means to make a record, so I’m just so grateful that I get to keep making music.
“And as slow as it is, I think it’s kind of a positive thing because it affords me the time to learn so much and build something that is a little more solid than people who’ve had overnight success.”
Like most artists worth their salt, she’ll build it on the road, with the next few months seeing her touring at a torrid and relentless pace — here, abroad and, of course, in the place she calls home when she has one.
“Well, that’s where my bed is,” she says.
And, again, her heart.
Austin appears to be her one true love. And when she talks about it, how easy it was to build a following and feel the welcome compared to, say, Toronto, where she also tried to fit in, you understand why.
“The music community, everyone is really rooting for one another, and everyone is very supportive of one another, and singer-songwriters and musicians lift one another up. And just having been in a few different music scenes now, I know that’s very rare,” she says.
“So it would be very hard to leave that. It’s a very, very beautiful thing.”
Well. The offer stands. We could always use another jewel in our crown, even if it is a Rose.
Whitney Rose performs Saturday at the Commonwealth Bar and Stage. Note: It’s an early show, with doors opening at 7 p.m.
Mike Bell has been covering the Calgary music scene for the past 25 years with publications such as VOX, Fast Forward, the Calgary Sun and, most recently, the Calgary Herald. He is currently the music writer and content editor for theYYSCENE.ca, and the co-host of the show Saved By the Bell, which airs Wednesdays from 4-6 p.m. on CJSW 90.9 FM. Follow him on at Twitter/@mrbell_23 or email him at email@example.com. He likes beer. Buy him one.