Monkey Room Music [Release date 21.01.19]
I’m not sure what I was expecting from this sax toting singer songwriter debut produced by Marvin Etzioni (Lone Justice bassist and a founder member). Perhaps, a cross between Maria McKee and Rindy Ross (Quarterflash)?
Sadly, no. Helen Rose has a great voice, and Trouble Holding Back is beautiful sounding record – particularly on a decent hi-fi set up, but it’s a very rootsy part blues, part country album.
With influences from New Orleans to Nashville, it opens with ‘Love & Whiskey’ – an R&B boogie with Rose’s dirty Clarence Clemence like sax giving it a seventies Linda Ronstadt vibe, while a deliberately a Bobbie Gentry/Ode To Billy Joe groove is applied to strip-mining inspired ‘Flatlands Of North Dakota’.
Iconic imagery abounds – a stripped back cover of ‘When The Levee Breaks’, the beguiling ‘Mississippi Moon’, the poignant piano/vocals minimalist’ The Mountain’, and the Rickie Lee Jones style cover of John Coltrane’s ‘On The Jukebox’.
Interestingly, the credits reveal that Etzioni – who also plays mandolin – features far more prominently than Rose in the songwriting with two self-penned originals, and a hand in five others. In contrast Rose co-writes on just four of the latter, with two covers (‘When The Levee Breaks’, and ‘The Mountain’ (Steve Earle)) making up the remainder of the ten track set.
‘Oh Glory B’e [naturally] adds a layer of gospel with a hook that pays tribute to Creedence Clearwater, the soulful ‘A Dangerous Tender Man’ is Isaac Hayes-inspired, and the evocative set closer ‘Love On Arrival’ features just Etzioni on a kickboard and Telecaster with Rose on vocals and sax.
There’s some powerful, classy, performances here, but from a broader appeal perspective the material errs on the roots side of the crossover line, making it one for those with a predilection for the blues. ***1/2
Review by Pete Whalley
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