Black Music Matters Festival

Maggie Rose

Cut to Impress – 2013 (RPM)

Reviewed by Michael Rampa

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CDs by Maggie Rose

Newcomer Maggie Rose (born Margaret Durante) has the looks and chops to run with country's estrogen elite. What differentiates her is the uncanny ability to deliver a song. On her impressive 10-track debut, "Cut To Impress," she sings about murder and rape as easily as she belts out a girl power anthem. Looking Back Now is so catchy and fluid, despite dealing with execution ("Sodium thiopental drips"). Her soulful voice is both melancholy and sassy at once.

The sexy single I Ain't Your Mama and the far more serious Preacher's Daughter are equally impactful.

Sonically, the lean 35 minutes runs the gamut from bluesy R&B to contemporary country. Durante's move to Nashville marked a turning point in her career. She cut her hair, chose a new moniker and began working with producer James Stroud. The songs became unapologetic and honest. In fact, the album is 20 percent murder related. Stroud gives the album its dark, muscle shoals vibe.

Thematically, the material exudes confidence and maturity, but touches on vulnerability that young women can relate to. Rose employs a few talented female band members with the goal of providing an atmosphere of sisterhood in her live show that young girls can look up to. The instrumentation ranges from heavy electric guitar and drums to the mellow finesse of a Resonator and a haunting pedal steel. Rose said, "I'll always be Margaret Durante but I've become more comfortable being candid with my fans and I decided I want to be known as Maggie Rose." Whatever she wants to be called, the music speaks for itself.