Chelle Rose

Ghost of Browder Holler – 2012 (Lil' Damsel)

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

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CDs by Chelle Rose

So much for maintaining momentum. It's been nearly a dozen years since Chelle Rose's striking debut "Nanahally River," a span of time, which by most measures, could be considered an eternity in the music biz. Even so, "Ghost of Browder Holler" isn't so much a comeback as a new beginning for this feisty singer/songwriter. Initial comparisons lean towards older artists like Loretta Lynn and Reba McEntire, given her gritty, no-nonsense sound and her ability to tow the line between revelry and recrimination. Not surprisingly then, she delves into tangled environs, with her brusque vocals imbuing an aura of edgy defiance throughout.

For the most part, Rose's rugged, roughhewn delivery takes its cue for the subjects of her songs, be it the tenacious take on domestic discord tackled in Alimony, the tragedy of delivering a stillborn child detailed in the spare and somber Wild Violets Pretty or the tattered gospel-like dirge that makes Rufus Morgan (Preacher Man) so mesmerizing and compelling.

Arranger/producer Ray Wyle Hubbard taps an all-star ensemble to accommodate these various set-ups, a veteran Austin-based line-up that includes Hubbard himself on guitar and harp, Ian McLagan on organ, Brad Rice handling guitar and mandolin and Rick Richards on drums with Hubbard and guests Elizabeth Cook and the McCrary Sisters contributing the backing vocals. The arrangements veer from the swampy Shady Grove Gonna Blow and the lonely lament of Weepin' Willow on the Hill to the frayed, up-tempo tack of Julie Miller's I Need You and the battered and bruised apocalyptic folk that shades Leona Barnet. Think "Exile on Main Street" traipsing through Appalachian environs.

Rose's riveting approach grabs instant attention, thanks to narratives that reflect the hard-bitten, back country environs of eastern Tennessee where Rose was raised and still finds her muse. Authenticity is an asset, and that makes "Ghost of Browder Holler" an album that's as vivid as it is visceral.