With a thematic stance on all things in the state of the emotional world, Stacie Rose’s new album, Stars, Stripes And Milestones, is a real-time journey into that wondrous maze of life. Rose wraps deeply personal topics in the fine, lyrical pondering of a world we can never predict. Her musical vision extols the celebration of birth and the never-ending dance of beginning anew. As Rose herself says, “If you have a heart that beats and your soul is pure, you will be touched by life’s trials and tragedies, the same way extreme joy will pry open locked doors and let light flood in.”
I first found Rose back in 2009 with the release of Shotgun Daisy. That particular CD put her on the Shoreworld’s radar, and I’ve followed her growth ever since. Stars, Stripes And Milestones is a logical continuation of that notice and demonstrates a matured performer who has figured out the secret of placing her own unique content into the discordant world of genres.
Rose has opened up the personal floodgates with her lyrical message on Stars, Stripes And Milestones. Songs flow with an easy continuity and an intimate, storytelling feel. She tumbles and swirls from mid-tempo folk to sun-splashed pop gems that greet with the pleasantries of a breezy summer day.
Featuring strong, industry players such as Jack Petruzzelli (Rufus Wainwright) and Matt Beck, the disc also benefits immensely from the ever-capable production of Jeffrey Allen (Avril Lavigne), the tracking prowess of Rich Lamb, and the mixing magic of Robert L. Smith (David Bowie, Rickie Lee Jones).
Rose starts things off strong with her Squeeze meets Sheryl Crow delivery on “Speak Your Mind.” Rose and company flourish within the structure of this song. Smartly reserved and dynamic, the band hangs back to allow Stacie’s pristine vocals to lead the way. Melodic passages trickle down over the acoustic-strummed body of the song, spilling rhythmic backbeats and bass into the bridge before Rose builds back into the final chorus of call and response eloquence.
“Missing Peace” searches desperately for one individual that locks life into the perfect spot. Once again, simplistic and reigned in, this pop-fueled production puts Rose way out in front. One downside that I noticed was that the middle eight seems to jump in without much notification that it’s coming. It goes from one section into the other without change in tempo or compositional dynamic. However, Matt Beck’s catchy use of subtle lap steel swells and frenetically pinged harmonics pulls this tune back into focus before handing it over to Rose for the last set of catchy choruses.
“Forever On The Mend” is a dreamy stroll through Sara Bareilles meets The Sundays territory. Acoustic guitars lay sparkling groundwork as Rose shares lifelines thrown at a regularly evolving destiny and the memories of past and present promises that they create. Doug Yowell’s percussion work pushes this along in the understated style of America’s Dewey Bunnell.
One of my favorite songs on the disc is “Long Haul.” When it comes to compositional awareness, “Long Haul” is bound to take Rose far into mainstream singer-songwriter circles. In a strange and pleasant twist, the verses are actually hooks and feature a smart end tag chord that drops the character of the song into a jazzy, dissonant 1970s zone, clarifying choruses and giving them plenty of active space as they come and go.
“Lucky” is simply what it sounds like. Some of us get what we want, and others just never figure it out. Rose lets us know that maybe what you have is already enough. Material possessions pale in comparison to family, friends, lovers, pets and the power of faith. Guitars are golden and analog warm here. Rose goes from soft, opulent vocals to her “wall of sound” throughout. Percussive accoutrements shift through the sound spectrum, sprinkling rhythmic magic between clockwork steady bass and drums. “Lucky” is a fortunate song that works like a charm. This would be one of my top choices for radio airplay.
Moving around the disc, I found “Walk In The Park” to be a stately number that combines a stylish 1950s progression with an ornate and elegant vocal delivery. I could hear this song being performed in just about every popular genre out there today. New Nashville will love this, as will fans of easy listening bands such as The Eagles. Finger picked guitar and keyboard riffs roll off the visual storytelling prose of Rose, as Allen and Yowell skirt the edges, sowing smooth bass and percussion seed throughout this waltzing garden of sound.
“Adore” features a gritty, tube-fueled feel, and is definitely the radio rocker of the disc. Actually, if you like the six-string work of Keith Richards from around 1976, you’ll dig all of the guitar voodoo supplied by Petruzzelli and Beck on this specific song as well as the record. Bass and drum work of Allen and Yowell locks tight, smacking the sweet spot as Rose paints her dreamy image of unexplainable love. The song turns like a spinning wheel, building and layering the vocal prowess of Rose and backing vocalist Tabitha Fair into an arabesque, multi-layered daydream.
“Picture Perfect” reminds me of Jane Wiedlin during her post-Go-Go’s career. Airy, chimey and clean, “Picture Perfect” is a 1980s snapshot placed in our time. Echoed lap steel work flies through the stratosphere, pulling out truck stop bends and dropping them down into the bridge before receding under the choruses. Rose whispers her trademark imagery “in this place where the lost souls are found.”
“Something To Sing About” is a unique mix of folky pop and sardonic Western twang all shrouded in a dark, hallelujah confessional. Guitars shimmer and growl, pushing waves of stuttered tremolo at the listener as Rose sings from the heart, opening the chorus with her silken-toned lilt and shifting each compositional section into the next exciting phase. Stacie uses her sword skill here as she applauds the grateful and inspired merit of the one who gave her reason to rejoice. I love how Rose steers the band into a Southern church choir harmony focus in verse two. Kudos also goes out to the guitarist who handles the middle-eight break. The piece pops and sizzles with six-string tone rolling through pentatonic free-for-alls in the traditional, old school feel of Johnny Hiland. Stacie is at her all time best here and reminds me of Durham, NC singer Brittany Hölljes (Delta Rae).
“Trading Stones” is another great songwriting example. Rose knows how to engage her listeners, utilizing attention-grabbing melodies and layering them with Tabitha Fair. She also doubles her vocal, creating a lush and original trademark sound that brings you back to replay it again and again.
Stacie Rose is a transitional writer. Evolution suits her, and Stars, Stripes And Milestones is her story of triumph over tribulation. From the important star of birth, to the hard-earned stripes of turmoil and the milestones that represent what it’s taken her to get this far, Rose has demonstrated intuitive intelligence in the tough world of commercial songwriting as well as patience and evident love to endure and proceed. Everyone did a great job on this musical boutique.
Stars, Stripes And Milestones includes the fine work of Jack Petruzzelli (guitars, banjo, and keyboards), Jeffrey Allen (bass guitar), Doug Yowell (drums and percussion), Matt Beck (guitars, lap steel and keyboards) and Tabitha Fair (backing vocals).
For more information into the ongoing journey of Stacie Rose and her new record, Stars, Stripes And Milestones, head over to stacierosemusic.com.