Artist: Chelle Rose
Album: Blue Ridge Blood
Label: Lil' Damsel
Release Date: 08/05/2016
Chelle Rose made quite an impact with her self-described ‘Appalachian rock n’roll’ with 2012’s Ghost of Browder Holler. That album had plenty of spit and fire and her voice left an indelible impression because it may have been the first time we heard a female “mountain” voice singing raw, unadulterated rock ‘n roll. Okay, it’s more on the roots side of the scale, but nonetheless it went down like straight whiskey.
Rose’s back with a stronger set of songs, following years of struggling with an undiagnosed thyroid disease that’s been finally identified and treated. Despite the success of her record, Rose felt that her short-lived career was over. As Rose puts it, “I started turning down gigs and makin’ excuses. I was in bed for almost two years. And I didn’t tell anybody. I didn’t want anybody to know. Finally, my best friend said, ‘You need to get some blood work. There’s something really wrong.’” She’s done that, she’s newly engaged, reinvigorated and in a cathartic way, has channeled much of her past pain into these songs, which are every bit as dark as those on her previous album. Yet, the album, unlike its predecessor, seems more upbeat than angry.
Bassist George Reiff sat in the producer chair, overseeing sessions recorded in Austin, with musicians Sergio Webb (guitars), Rick Richards (drums), Billy Cassis (guitars), Johnathan Letner (mandolin), and Bukka Allen (keys). Buddy Miller duets with Rose on the title track.
Rose alternates between dark tales and sweet memories that revolve around her extended family in these 11 self-penned tunes. This family comes from “both sides of the mountain” – East Tennessee and North Carolina, but she points to her paternal side, a long line of South Knoxville musicians, for her musical talent. Having moved to Nashville in 1996, she divorced in 2008 and relocated to Leiper’s Fork, TN, the basis for the tune “Hidin’ Hole”. The album is dedicated to her maternal grandmother who raised her and passed away just two years ago. She nods to her in the title track where Buddy Miller’s harmonies float over Sergio Webb’s stellar dobro playing. You hear the theme of Blue Ridge Blood in “Mean Grandpappy,” a man who according to Rose had no tears shed for him at his funeral. Bitter defiance comes forth in “Dammit Darlin’ and “Not Your Girl”. Other tunes touch on mortality, vivid characters, trains and misplaced love. It’s all done in Rose’s singular raw, honest approach where a vulnerable perspective emerges from the toughness every so often too.
– Jim Hynes