Rose may be a relative newcomer -- her new release "The Stand-In" is only her second full-length recording -- but she certainly has the pedigree of a Music City songwriter and a self-assurance that belies her youth. Raised in Nashville, both her parents work in the music industry and her mother, Liz Rose, is also a songwriter. The elder Rose has found great success with Taylor Swift, co-writing many of Swift's biggest hits including "Teardrops on My Guitar" and "You Belong With Me." But whereas Swift, ostensibly a country artist, has been more inclined toward pop-rock with each successive record, the younger Rose falls more squarely on the country side of the fence.
While it's true the rock-tinged riff of "No One to Call" leads off the record with a pop feel, throughout rest of the record Rose and her band straddle a line that runs somewhere between country and rock. But a good deal of the material here is more traditional country, at least in the instrumentation, with lead guitar backed by pedal steel, upright bass, Hammond organ and occasional mandolin. Rose does not have the powerhouse voice of a Neko Case, but it is quite capable: clear and strong, and able to deliver whatever level of emotion the song requires. And that voice is suited to a variety of styles, be it the loss and longing of the lovely "Pink Champagne" or the rocked-up, self-righteous anger of "Menagerie." She is also quite comfortable in the role of ingenue, and plays the part well.
Love, or the lack thereof, has always been fertile ground for songwriters of any genre. Country songwriters in particular mine the veins of heartache and isolation, and Rose and her collaborators are no exceptions. From loneliness to nostalgia for lives past and loves lost, their songs are often character studies in sadness. Most of the songs here were written or co-written by Rose, and she seems to prefer the lonely side of town. "Only a Clown" is a fine track, the story of a young girl feeling the fool at a party. "Let the band play a song/All about love and believin'," she sings, and you just know that she doesn't believe. "I Was Cruel," one of the two songs not penned by Rose, is also a stand-out track, however, as is "Dallas." The latter is a cover a Felice Brothers tune, revealing a less glamorous side of show business as the song's protagonist leaves town. "Just a three night run at the Palace," Rose sings, "And I've never in my life felt so alone."
"The Stand-In" was co-produced by Skylar Wilson, who has recently worked with Justin Townes Earle, and in addition to production credits he contributes piano and organ to the mix. Rose has assembled a fine backing band here, including guitarist Jordan Lehning, who also co-produced, along with a host of additional musicians. With excellent production and excellent musicians behind her, Rose has turned in a mature and accomplished sophomore record. It will be fascinating to see what's next for this promising young artist.