Stephanie Rose’s Sprout confidently opens with the title song, a jaunty nearly four minute musical journey kicking off with a distinctly rootsy country slant. There’s a smattering of organ laid into the mix for color and its unobtrusive presence helps accentuate the song’s retro air, but there’s a modern glean emanating from the song impossible to ignore. Rose comes off as possessing a singular talent for pouring old wine into new bottles, but we soon get a clear sense of her wider gifts. “Sprout” covers a lot of stylistic ground, but Rose never places a foot wrong and the song’s blending of modern country with high end pop melodies and even brass is a potent brew.

“Rusted Love” raises the bar several notches higher. A brief flurry of acoustic guitar presages a beginning wholeheartedly embracing a radio ready aesthetic, yet fresh and crackling with energy, Rose’s lyrical talents are in full evidence during this recording and the curious mix of strength and sensitivity defining her voice enhances the writing all the more. It’s cut to similar length as the title song and they certainly share the same focus on avoiding unnecessary sideshows in favor of placing Rose’s songwriting out front and entertaining listeners.


“Luxury” foregoes the instrumental theatrics of the first two songs in favor of a slice of life portrayal of a family sustaining themselves on little more than love. It’s the most solidly country number yet on Sprout and the fiddle running through the song sings with piercing heartache, It’s definitely a ballad, but quite a change of pace from the preceding songs and a welcome shift in gears. Rose’s voice really excels here. She continues following a traditional vein with the song “Old Soul” and it has instant likability thanks to the band’s bouncy shuffle and the tempered exuberance of Rose’s voice. The song is littered with numerous good rhymes and it’s illustrative of how Rose’s talents are such that she makes it all sound effortless and easy.

There’s a nicely played slide guitar solo highlighting “Crushed” and the songwriting returns to a template similar to the EP’s earlier songs, but there’s no sense of Rose repeating herself. Instead, the song shifts from a low key acoustic based introduction into a rollicking mid-tempo country rock number with a real sense of purpose and pops with its own identity. Her gift for taking popular turns of phrase and hinging personal statements on those expressions reaches its zenith in some ways with the closer “Same Old Same Old”. It’s a relaxed final curtain for the release, acoustic in nature, and has a wry yet meditative mood well in line with what has come before. This EP release contains a small, yet impressively diverse, musical world and accomplishes more than many longer releases and rates among the best sophomore outings in some time. Stephanie Rose’s Spout more than realizes the promise of her first release and shows she’s a talent with the potential to grow and thrive as a singer/songwriter for years to come.


Sebastian Cole