Last year was a busy one for Eileen Rose. As well as writing two novels she recorded two albums; well, one double one really. Recording at the famous Muscle Shoals Sounds studio in Alabama spurred Rose on to not only put out an album of new songs (the ‘Eileen Rose’ part), but to add a ‘B’ side re-recording 10 songs from her back catalogue (actually 8 if you go for the digital version of the album making a total of 17 if you go for the feel-it-in-your-hands CD version). The latter inspired both by the sound of her band in full flow (more of that later) and being in historic surroundings – using the equipment that had been used to record ‘Brown Sugar’ and ‘Wild Horses’, seeing photos on the wall of Jagger sitting at the same recording desk and using Linda Ronstadt’s headphones in the same vocal booth she used could not fail to inspire even the most seasoned of recording artists. And inspire it has, as Eileen Rose delivers 19 songs (17 for the CD version) scooping for a rich reservoir of influences, and giving her band The Holy Wreck’- all Nashville veterans themselves – their head to rock out, country twang or cozy up where appropriate.
And one of the aspects of this record that’s immediately apparent is the array of styles Rose brings forth, ensuring that 19 (17) songs hit a satisfying span of variation. OK, in truth one or two tunes included could have been left off without too much lamentation ensuing; ‘Hush, shhh’ is a little twee while ‘The Auld Triangle’, a traditional tune with lyrics by Brendan Behan and an additional verse by Rose, is a tribute to her Irish/Italian Boston roots sung acapella for her family. As a vocal performance it is impressive but one cannot help feel is in ‘hit skip’ territory.
The record starts relatively low key with ‘She’s Gone’ where Rose comes to grips with the loss of her mother. The song is firmly traditional country and showcases Rose’s voice perfectly before the band kick into ‘He’s So Red’, a current affairs influenced rocker with a guitar riff that will have you thinking ‘Money for Nothing’.
Things take a slight detour again with a cover of King Crimson’s ‘Matte Kudasai’ which sees the Holy Wreck coming across quite Fleetwood Mac. No time to pause, though, before ‘Get Up’ gets into full flow, kicked along by some riotous horns. ‘Am I Really So Bad’ is, as you might expect, more reflective before ‘On Shady Hill’ and ‘A Little Too Loud,’ have us in full barroom rock n’roll flight. Side A glides to its conclusion with the aforementioned ‘Hush, shhh’ and ‘The Auld Triangle’.
So, flip to the ‘B’ side (‘The Muscle Shoals’ part) and here we find some rather tasty nuggets. Rose was inspired by her band to re-record some of her standards, starting with six minutes of ‘Shining’ which tops the original with a new sense of energy, verve grit and bite; I don’t imagine Rose and her band have sounded better. And so it is with the other songs on this ‘B’ side. The playing is top-notch and at times Rose sounds like Patti Smith backed by the Heartbreakers (they of the Tom Petty variety); all through the power and intensity are palpable. All told this record gives 19 (17) tunes that are a big old tasty dollop of country rock, but me, I am starting with the B side first.