Slowly rising from the silence is an acoustic guitar, from which acrylic notes come cascading gently, one graceful beat at a time. Suddenly a sliding bass comes crashing through the pristine waters of the opening salvo and ushers in a tidal wave of drums and electricity, giving Stephanie Rose just the introduction she needs to captivate us with her glowing lyricism. The lyrics fall from her lips as pendulously as those first few notes drifted away from the guitar, but it doesn’t take half as long for us to become trapped in her spell. She sings of a kinship that isn’t quite what it once was, even if it’s still here in the flesh. This is “Rusted Love,” and it’s one of six deliciously intriguing new songs to be found on her exciting extended play Sprout, which was released last year to massive approval from those who know country music best. I had the pleasure of giving this record a dedicated spin recently, alongside the video for its recently released leadoff single “Luxury,” and I must say that while I was expecting a lot based on her past work, I never anticipated being as impressed as I ultimately was.
The video for “Luxury” is arguably even more expressive than the enigmatic substance of its lyrics is on the surface, but not in the conventional sense of all music videos being an extension of an artist’s narrative. In what feels like scenes from a collection of camcorder videos, we join Rose in the Canadian white powder as she enjoys a truly pastoral afternoon doing what you do when you’re staying in a remote cabin – gathering wood for the fire. The premise isn’t elaborate, there aren’t any big cameos or surprise storylines; it’s really just the music, the grainy video and the warm connection that we feel with Rose through this unpretentious offering of intimate pictures. In Sprout’s other tracks, like “Crushed” and “Old Soul,” she employs a similar method of simplicity that comes off as surreal and almost dreamlike, and even though “Same Old Same Old” has the colorful pop polish of an American rock song, it doesn’t overshoot its ambitious design by adding a lot of unnecessary volume or instrumentation.
More than anything else, the haunting production quality of Sprout left me really wanting to hear more from Stephanie Rose in the near future, as this is unquestionably her most sublimely mixed and engineered record yet. She’s adapted her style in the last few years since Go Where the Wind Takes You, which in my opinion was a tad rougher around the edges than this release is. I think that come 2020, she’s going to be a hard act to top in terms of songwriting skill and stage presence, and Sprout is merely laying out the blueprints of what’s to come next. I’ll be following along the whole way, if for no other reason than to witness the rise of a serious Canadian singer/songwriter who refuses to blend in with the crowd and isn’t scared of a challenge in or out of the studio.