Album Review – Whitney Rose’s ‘Heartbreaker of the Year’

Whitney Rose Heartbreaker of the Year

So far 2015 has proven to be a year full of fantastic country and Americana music, already surpassing 2014 in terms of overall quality and variety. Almost every type of country music has been done brilliantly. Well I have to say there’s one area that has been a little lacking for me and that has been the absence of a truly phenomenal album from a solo female country artist. We’ve gotten plenty of very good albums from female country artists and even some phenomenal albums from Americana female artists. But not a female country artist. Well at least until today. Late in July I heard buzz about an upcoming album from a female country artist from Canada named Whitney Rose. And her producer for this album would be none other than the silky voiced frontman of The Mavericks, Raul Malo. I’m on record as a huge fan of The Mavericks and have praised them multiple times, including on their newly released album earlier this year, Mono. With a voice like Rose’s and Malo’s influence, I was eager to give Heartbreaker of the Year a listen. Not only did it live up to my high expectations, but it surpassed them.

Pianos play in the opening track “Little Piece of You.” It’s an upbeat love song with plenty of lingering steel guitar and organ play throughout it. Yet there’s also very much a pop vibe in not only this song, but also the whole album. Rose seems to find a perfect marriage of traditional country and “vintage pop.” Another upbeat tune in “My First Rodeo” is next. It seems to be about a woman going out on her own and promising it isn’t her first rodeo. There’s a frenzy of instrumentation in the song, including steel guitar, acoustic guitar, tambourine (or something similar) and drums. “The Last Party” is about a woman recalling the last time she was with a special man who was in her life. Rose’s voice is beautifully perfect on this song and producer Raul Malo can be heard in the background too, who complements Rose’s voice well. This dreamy heartbreak song is easy to fall in love with and want to play over and over.

Rose sing about the man of her dreams in “Only Just A Dream.” He’s perfect for her, but of course he’s just a dream, as her mind tricks her into believing he’s perfect for her. Rose’s voice and the instrumentation go really well together and play off each other to create a great song. The album’s title track is a sultry story about a woman coming across a man who absolutely stuns her. He’s simply alluring to her and she knows she can’t resist him, making her declare him the heartbreaker of the year with ease. Rose’s voice shines a lot on this album, but no more than on this song. Everything in this song is near flawless. Rose is joined by Malo on her cover of the Ronettes’ hit “Be My Baby.” When I heard Malo would be producing this album, I was really hoping he would do at least one duet and I’m not disappointed. Putting two fantastic talents like this together creates magic for the ears. You have to hear together for yourself to truly appreciate this song.

The most fun song on the album is hands-down “The Devil Borrowed My Boots.” After a woman goes out for a night of debauchery and craziness, she tells everyone the next day that wasn’t her, but the devil that borrowed her boots. It’s a clever way of telling a story about how the woman let the devil out for a night and it led to a wild night. The instrumentation on this song plays a big part in making this song so fun (Rose really enjoyed writing it too). It’s a strangely good combination of pop-y drums and acoustic guitar with an organ. “Ain’t It Wise” is another dreamy love ballad with killer instrumentation. The Mavericks’ influence is all over this album, so of course the instrumentation is great. It’s one of their trademark staples that make them so good and what makes this album so good too.

“Lasso” is a more traditional, desperado type ballad. It’s about a woman who continues to get “lassoed” in by a man every time she thinks she’s drifting away from him. She’s so enamored with him that she finds herself doing things she swore she would never do. It’s yet another solid love ballad. Heartbreaker of the Year closes with Rose covering the Hank Williams classic “There’s a Tear in My Beer.” Now just tackling a Hank song alone is a gutsy challenge worthy of a tip of the cap. When you cover it brilliantly like Rose does with this heartbreak classic, it’s even more impressive. If you can cover Hank this well, it truly shows your high level of artistry. Bravo to Rose on treating a classic from the king of country music with such grace and poise.

Whitney Rose delivers in a big way with Heartbreaker of the Year. There are so many things about it that make it standout. First and foremost is the unique sound of it. Never have I heard pop and traditional country music blended together so seamlessly to create a cool sound. The production is pretty much perfect on every song, so kudos to Raul Malo for his creative eye. The instrumentation is fun, engaging, rich and full of variety. This is the kind of country music that evolves the genre and takes it to new places, something mainstream country artists fail to do with their music. This album is an absolute must-listen and Rose is an artist you need to keep an eye on for years to come. Heartbreaker of the Year is one of the best of the year.

Grade: 10/10

 

17 thoughts on “Album Review – Whitney Rose’s ‘Heartbreaker of the Year’

  1. Derek Hudgin August 31, 2015 / 11:18 am

    This album is incredible! It’s become one of my favorites from this year already. Her cover of “Be My Baby” with Raul is just plain awesome!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kevin Davis August 31, 2015 / 11:40 am

    I am very happy to see you and Trigger review this album, with deservedly high praise.

    As I mentioned somewhere else on this blog, her prior album is marvelous and was criminally ignored by nearly all of the country review sites. She’s the whole package: lyrics, vocals, production sense, and a creativity that is unparalleled by anyone to emerge in the last few years. Of course, she will never achieve mainstream success, but she surely deserves the same attention that has been heaped upon the guys: Stapleton, Isbell, Simpson, Whitey Morgan, etc. She is every bit in their league.

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  3. Megan Conley August 31, 2015 / 5:50 pm

    This is a good album, but it didn’t connect with me as much as it seems to have connected with everyone else. Having said that, I think it is one of those albums that will grow on me, like you mentioned Courtney Patton’s album had to grow on you. It helped me to hear Whitney’s description of her style as “vintage-pop-infused-neo-traditional-country” on her site, because that’s a good description and makes the album easier to appreciate. It’s a style that I’ve grown to like, and it is a true “evolution” of the country sound, but I could see/understand why a lot of country fans might not like it. It did make me interested in hearing more from Whitney Rose, and I plan to check out her debut album.

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    • Josh Schott August 31, 2015 / 6:00 pm

      Just curious: How familiar are you with The Mavericks? The reason I ask is because that’s another thing I think is helping others connect with it. The Mavericks’ influence is palpable in every song and many who enjoy their music probably enjoy Rose’s album.

      But yes it’s definitely a true evolution of the country sound and makes Rose one to watch.

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      • Megan Conley September 1, 2015 / 2:55 am

        Slightly…I haven’t listened to a lot of their music. Apparently I should correct that 🙂

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  4. Zack November 21, 2015 / 11:03 pm

    Another album to knock off the 2015 bucket list. Very strong album. Love the sounds on it, and how each song sounds a bit different from the next without lacking cohesiveness.

    So that’s Rayland Baxter’s “Imaginary Man”, The Yawpers, “American Man”, and Whitney Roses’s “Heartbreaker Of The Year” out of the way. I’ve bought Rayland’s but have resorted to Spotify for the others until I get money (which honestly will most likely be Christmas)

    Either way, I’m glad I knocked 3 quality albums off my bucket list!

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