Whitney Rose ‘Heartbreaker of the Year’ Album Review

Canadian newcomer Whitney Rose conjures up a contemporary country presence not seen since the debut of k.d. lang – she’s a vocal and songwriting star in the making.

“This is precisely the record I wanted to make and with the musicians I wanted. The final product is very much what you’ll get if you come to a live show. A couple of parts where my voice breaks a little bit is fine, because the emotion is there. That can’t be said for a lot of records being put out these days.” – Whitney Rose

One door closes, another opens: that’s the famous saying. In this instance, we couldn’t be more pleased that after the over-hyped Taylor Swift has forsaken country music, a fresher and more authentic voice emerges – one that’s already being compared to the legendary Patsy Cline. Whitney Rose has an undeniable vocal presence that while not as emotionally complex as that of Patsy nevertheless registers as the musical truth. In addition, she turns out to be one fine songwriter as well. Her sophomore album, Heartbreaker of the Year, is simply terrific.

Much of the credit is due to her production team and the fortuitous availability of several stellar backing musicians. Canadian alt-country star Raul Malo of The Mavericks was totally knocked out by Whitney’s live performances and her songwriting. He signed up as producer, erstwhile vocalist on a couple of tracks, and guitarist. He brought along fellow Mavericks Paul Deakin, Jay Weaver and Jerry Dale McFadden. He also recruited Toronto A-list players Burke Carroll, Drew Jurecka, and guitarist Nichol Robertson (whom Rose calls “my musical right hand man”).

Essential tracks: the title song “Heartbreaker of the Year” is a stunner, in which the songwriting, the vocal, and the superb guitar work come together to create a song that holds up brilliantly to repeated listening. The two covers she’s chosen to do are keepers, both of them surprising choices. Her duet with Raul Malo on the Rosettes chestnut “Be My Baby” is easily the best version of this tune since Veronica Bennett’s original back in 1963.

Then there’s the album closer: Hank Williams’ “There’s A Tear in my Beer” wherein Whitney projects a believable sadness. As for her own songwriting, she has already mastered the art of creating hook-filled country weepers that manage to steer clear of the obvious.

The natural sound of this record is to be commended. The sonics are a revelation: what Raul and his team accomplished at the Revolution Recording studio in Toronto should be a model for the industry. Balanced sound, beautifully-miked vocals that recall classic recordings of the Patsy Cline era, and an unprocessed authenticity that, on a good audio system, delivers an understated yet luscious aural beauty that is something wonderful to behold.

The album was released in Canada back in April of this year, and Whitney’s been on a cross-country tour to support the record, which is gathering considerable acclaim – so much so that it’s led to worldwide release as of a couple of weeks ago. This record is going to raise her profile in the coming months, as well as that of Raul and The Mavericks.

Whitney’s arrival signals great things for the future of Canadian country music.