The New York Times: New Music

New MusicBy JON PARELES

CHELLE ROSE
“Ghost of Browder Holler”

(Lil’ Damsel)

“I don’t know who I trouble more / The mean old Devil or the good old Lord,” Chelle Rose sings on her second album, “Ghost of Browder Holler,” and she’s bragging more than worrying. It’s an album filled with rasp, drawl, twang and tenacity.

Ms. Rose (whose first name is pronounced as “Shelly”) grew up in East Tennessee (where Browder Holler is) and lives in Nashville. She released her first album, “Nanahally River,” in 2000, then withdrew into family life. “Alimony” may or may not be a song about what eventually happened; its snarling electric guitars back the tale of a woman who leaves a stultifying suburban marriage to be a musician.

“I wasn’t askin’ for much, just make some noise with my boys,” she sings. “He was supposed to be my lover, we was Hatfield and McCoys.”

As a songwriter, Ms. Rose works in the realm of Lucinda Williams, Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle, Alejandro Escovedo and other terse, unflinching songwriters on the rock fringe of country. She sings about hard-nosed characters — herself, perhaps, among them — and ways to face tough situations, and the answer is as much in the grain of her voice and the sinewy guitars as in her words.

The album was produced in Austin by the Texas-based songwriter Ray Wylie Hubbard, who links country to the Rolling Stones, the Band and the Staple Singers. “Rufus Morgan (Preacher Man)” is Southern soul, while “I Need You,” a song by Julie Miller, hints at “Gimme Shelter.”

Although the album was made in Texas, the songs look back to rural Tennessee. Over minor-mode chords, with an Appalachian-flavored melody, Ms. Rose stares down a flood in “Shady Grove Gonna Blow,” advising, “Run down to the graveyard you tell all your kin/River rises up we’ll be together again.”

In “Browder Holler Boy,” a woman’s dreams are haunted by a dead lover: “I tried to save you from the Devil’s violent brew/My skin ain’t soft enough my kisses would not do.”

There’s more sorrow and loss than solace in these songs, but Ms. Rose hasn’t given up on humanity. “If I Could,” a hymnlike song tucked quietly in the middle of the album, offers simple kindness: “Whatever it would take, I’d be willing to give,” she sings, with a stoic reality check, “If I could.” JON PARELES

2 Responses to “The New York Times: New Music”

  1. wayne Blankenship May 1, 2012 at 11:50 pm #

    Dear Chelle Rose
    Its so exciting to see your review in the NY Times. WOW WOW We’re so proud of you.
    Looooook out world here I come.
    Hugs and Love
    Wayne & Josie

  2. Little Steele May 22, 2013 at 9:48 pm #

    Wow, Chelle, you’re kicking ass as usual! I’m proud of you girl! Thanks for sharing your music! From one music lover to another–I can’t wait to get your new music. Sounds like you are finally getting the recognition you have deserved for so long! Love ya, girl!

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