There is fascination in vulnerability, we are beguiled by a stranger who chooses to share their emotions and history, their short story relationships that turned out to be sometimes painful yet deficient chapters in a novel none of us ever seem to finish. We can be beguiled by the stranger who can create beauty from what seems broken.
Alexa Rose takes a paintbrush from her soul and draws broad strokes across yours. Born in the Alleghany Highlands of West Virginia, there is craft and history here, an awareness of those that went before her, rooted in the traditions of folk and storytelling. Alexa holds these values close and sews together fine threads of quiet mastery and confident clarity, adding her own personality to create a unique style. Alexa holds onto the words as she sings them, not wanting to let them go, wringing all the lasting meaning from them, each one a precious piece of endeavour. Frazey Ford is one of the very few others who can do this so well and to such effect.
The subtlety of the musical arrangements throughout this album is something that you immediately notice, it’s not intrusive, it’s not the centre, not what the song is about, it’s a canvas upon which an artist adds the foreground. The opening song, “Borrow your heart”, shows the promise of what is to come, “Can I borrow your heart, I think I lost my own”, the line is so simple, but hides deeper currents of unresolved thoughts. The thing about Rose is that her lyrics throughout the album can seem contradictory, there is a conflict of thoughts which becomes fascinating. There are times when she writes with such feelings of weakness, confronted with the enormity of love that has taken so much of her but is ultimately fruitless, yet other times when realism and optimism is embraced.
The title track “Medicine for living” is at once haunting and torn, “Can I ask you a question, I know you don’t want to hear, but I’m the heirloom at the mercy of the auctioneer, There’s a crack in the finish, but it’s easy to miss, Are you going to love me when it ain’t like this”. It’s the throes of a relationship that is failing, with all its inevitability and feelings of powerlessness.
“That’s the way love is”. This ballad with its minimalist backing leaves Rose’s voice exposed in all its complexity and range and once again the lyrical quality leaves you in no doubt that this is an artist with depth. The song is a search into perpetual disappointment mixed with eternal optimism.
This is such a promising work, a debut album which deserves all the attention it will no doubt receive, we await more, and what a time we have in store watching Alexa Rose develop her music.
© Jon Hutchinson 2019