Tales of romance within the music industry are still alive and kicking, you hear stories of buskers being plucked from oblivion to record debut albums, lonely minstrel-type performers suddenly thrown into the spotlight after years of sofa surfing and these kinds of background stories are much more interesting than the reality of someone going through years of learning their craft in numerous bands before suddenly getting a deal with a bunch of friends and going on to be the next big thing.
Singer and saxophonist Helen Rose lived in her uncles loft while she worked tables to scrape together the money to hire the musicians, she knew she would need to make her songs a reality, it’s romantic stuff and a clear indicator of someone knowing what they want and realising how to go about getting it.
Within the albums ten songs we’re treated to a mix of country, soul and bluesy rock, first song ‘Love and Whiskey’ sounds like it was written by the Jagger and Richards and handed to Rose, it’s a strong opener giving a hint of her soulful – almost jazzy – voice which is at times storyteller and yet so emotionally connected to the songs that you can hear the meaning in the words, ‘Flatlands of North Dakota’ is a fine example of her telling the story of the lost waitress (and sometime pole dancer) but giving an empathy to the character.
‘When The Levee Breaks’ is a pure blues tune, again sung beautifully and giving the feel of southern America to a bygone time. It’s pretty brave for a saxophonist to have a song with John Coltrane in the title (John Coltrane on The Jukebox), his shadow looms over most sax players such was his impact and contribution to the instrument but what could have been a journey into homage is a dirty, bluesy love song performed with patience and control.
We’re invited to travel with Rose through the influences of her music, there is a ballad, a song in ‘A Dangerous Tender Man’ that would easily translate into a jazz standard and a Steve Earle cover before we finish on the quiet ‘Love On Arrival’.
I would have loved to have heard a little more sax, a bit more jazz influence – like I said, her voice is suited to jazz and would sit perfectly in front of a Chicago soul brass section – but as it is this album is a reflection of influences, Emmylou Harris, Rolling Stones and Bonnie Raitt and, given the chance (this album has been playing in my car all weekend), this album will grow on you. A strong debut album and someone I’ll be keeping an ear out for in the future.