More People Really Should Know About: Esther Rose

New Orleans based musician and songwriter Esther Rose has seen her career gradually gain momentum over the last decade. Following the end of her marriage to Luke Winslow-King in 2015, Rose recorded and released her debut album ‘This Time Last Night’ in 2017. A lovely album, it showcased what were to become consistent trademarks of her later work, namely heartfelt and often personal songs, and a voice as pure and emotive as it gets, all set to a fresh modern sound that is also rooted in traditional musical forms, most notably country, but also embracing folk and elements of other styles.

Rose’s second album ‘You Made It This Far’ followed in 2019. It was recorded live to tape in New Orleans giving it a fresh, wholesome, and organic sound and feel. It showcases Rose’s raw talent. I hadn’t heard the debut album at this point, so its follow-up was my entry point to Rose’s music and I was instantly mesmerised by it, so much so that I was even lured into buying a US vinyl import copy of the record. Expensive – yes, worth it? You bet.

‘How Many Times’ Rose’s third album was her first to be directly released in the UK and was met with a chorus of critical acclaim. I personally reviewed it for AUK giving it 9/10 and wrote this:

“The common thread throughout the album is that each of the songs reflect personal feelings and how Rose deals with them, rather than seeking to apportion blame to anyone for anything. Yet while the lyrics sometimes reveal hurt and heartache, Rose’s chirpy voice and the simple pop inspired sound behind her, are in sharp contrast. Setting sadness and sorrow to a catchy tune is classic country yet Rose manages to imbue this old template with a freshness and a modernity that set it apart from mere revivalists. Rose simultaneously creates, challenges and expands traditional country music, through the power of her songs and the sound that she chooses to showcase them through.”

The album also made our best of 2021 list and quite rightly too, it is a beautiful work and a considerable achievement. It is to use a slightly tired phrase, a break-up album, but it is so much more that that. The tone is very much one of personal reflection and reassessment rather than recrimination or blame.

On the release of Esther Rose’s fourth and most recent album ‘Safe to Run’ AUK’s Deputy Editor Jonathan Aird concluded that it “is a hell of a deep dive into a life that’s being left behind, and a pick through the emotional baggage that gets carried forward anyway.  Musically and lyrically matched to perfection it’s an album that’s a real repeat listener.”

You can’t stand still forever and ‘Safe to Run’ moved Rose on. With a more polished and professional production and a sound moving slightly away from the traditional and toward the introduction of a more modern rock influenced feel, long term fans might have been forgiven for a certain amount of trepidation. After all there have been plenty of respected roots artists who have trod a similar new path only to end up totally lost. Esther Rose fans need not have worried though. ‘Safe to Run’ was a triumph. As an artist Rose has always trod a line between modern and traditional influences. The album is not a radical departure, more a step towards the modern side of that line. In explaining the changes in an interview with AUK’s Martin Johnson, Rose said “When digging for inspiration prior to recording, producer Ross Farbe and I were simultaneously reliving our obsession with the intensity of Elliott Smith and the timeless rock of Wilco. We threw in some super fun pop & techno elements that may take many listens to notice”.

Despite being on a clear upward trajectory. Esther Rose has not yet reached the level of success that her talent clearly warrants and deserves. More people really should know about her…and when they do she should fly.

About Clint West 319 Articles
From buying my first record aged 10 and attending my first gig at 14, music has been a lifelong obsession. A proud native of Suffolk, I have lived in and around Manchester for the best part of 30 years. My idea of a perfect day would be a new record arriving in the post in the morning, watching Ipswich Town win in the afternoon followed by a gig and a pint with my mates at night,
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Mike Ritchie

Esther Rose is so, so good.

Really pleased that Clint West is of the same opinion.

Caught her live at The 5 Spot in Nashville last September and she was simply marvellous. Think I have all her recordings as well.

She also did a really fun ident for my radio show and chatting with her was a delight, she was really nice and relaxed.

Brendan Cooke

Excellent article, Clint, on a super, engaging artist. She is great live too with or without a band!