Chelle Rose’s hard-edged Appalachian folk

Chelle Rose bit her lip, then the bullet and wrote about things in her life that bit the dust.

Rose has real guts, and a mountain-craggy but somehow elegant way, too, of spilling them. In most every case on “Blue Ridge Blood,” she comes out smelling like a spicy — yes — rose. Albeit dark in various shades, her songs are fantastic.

Chelle RoseNaturally, Rose’s turmoil began with her family — or at least some of it. Several members were musicians from either western North Carolina or eastern Tennessee. So, she inherited some very particular mountain moxy. As a result or not, she’s had plenty of her own storms to weather. “Blue Ridge Blood” is her life, strikingly.

Rose calls to mind Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams in voice, and Shelby Lynne in attitude. The music is hard-edged Appalachian folk.

“Ain’t no sunshine in the gut of that mountain” is the first phrase out of her mouth in “Paintsville Table,” a vivid tale about the hardscrabble existence of a coal miner and his family. The second song leads right to the last, in a thoroughly enthralling, roundabout way. Amid stark guitars and percussion, Rose flatly states that she can fight, and get down on her knees every night, but can’t “Reckon with the Devil.”

Near the end of the album she sings of her “Mean Grandpappy,” somewhat guardedly, disclosing the unthinkable with a vibe as cutting as a switch stick. But in between, in contrast, Buddy Miller sings harmony with Rose on the title track, a nice rough-hewn acoustic-based song about home and what makes a person what they are. “Laid Me Down” then speaks beautiful volumes to any dad of a daughter, with its tender images of laying his baby girl down to bed for the night. The very last song may be the one that defines Chelle Rose, in which she confesses that her mother always wanted her to “Sing Pretty.” Guess what? The edge in her voice is gone, and she makes her mama proud.

Rose also admits that critics tell her she looks pissed off all the time in her photos. Not so on the cover of “Blue Ridge Blood.” I see beauty and experience in that face, which is exactly what you’ll hear in her songs.

— Tom Clarke

  • Chelle Rose
    “Blue Ridge Blood”
    Label: Lil’ Damsel

ABOUT Tom Clarke

Tom Clarke
From pre-war blues to the bluegrass of the Virginia hills, Tom Clarke has a passion for most any kind of deep-rooted American music, and has been writing about it for 25 years. He’s particularly fond of anything from Louisiana, Los Lobos, and the Allman Brothers Band and its ever-growing family tree. Tom’s reviews and articles have appeared in BluesPrint, the King Biscuit Times, Hittin’ The Note, Kudzoo, Blues Revue, Elmore, Blues Music Magazine, and now, Tahoe Onstage. Tom and his wife Karen have raised four daughters in upstate New York. They split their time between the Adirondack Mountains and coastal South Carolina.

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One Response

  1. Great review, Tom Clarke!
    As a long time fan of Chelle Rose’s music, I was first in line to order a copy of ‘Blue Ridge Blood’. Chelle proved to be a fabulous storyteller and gifted songwriter in her first two albums, ‘Nanahally River’ and ‘Ghost of Browder Holler’ and I believe that she’s created her masterpiece with ‘Blue Ridge Blood’.
    Anyway, I meant to write to you when this article first appeared, just to mention that you might want to give another listen to the “Laid Me Down” track. It’s definitely NOT a “Dad ~ Daughter” song. It is, in fact, a pretty steamy and passionate song about two lovers.
    Looking forward to your next music article. Cheers!

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