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.