Maggie Rose gets help from Alabama Shakes’s Ben Tanner for new multi-genre project
The Highwaymen are the greatest country music group of all time. They get to hold this title not only because of the way their music sounds but also because of the way in which they went about making the music. Feeling bogged down by big label executives and a cookie-cutter sound, they struck out on their own and joined independent record labels in order to make the music that they wanted. A similar story can be said for Maggie Rose after she left Universal Records for the independent Emrose Records, allowing for her own genre to shine.
With her new album, Have a Seat, Rose capitalizes on her newfound freedom. The team behind this album seems important to mention based on their history. For starters, Ben Tanner of the Alabama Shakes receives producer credits for the whole album, giving it the smooth, jumpy feel that Rose wanted. In addition, David Hood and Will McFarlane, both longtime musicians for Aretha Franklin, split guitar responsibilities. This all-star cast sets the stage for Have a Seat.
“What Are We Fighting For” kicks off the album on a contemplative note. A smooth, grooving track about peace, Rose’s soulful voice perfectly hits every note above the electric piano and rock drums. “Not keeping score—that’s what’s worth fighting for,” croons Rose with a laid-back passion that is hard to come by. Make sure to stick around for the gospel-esque ending to the song.
“Do It” marks the second track on the album. This song, differing from the suave sentiment of the last, has a liveliness to it that works perfectly with the lyrics “Ain’t nothin to it just do it, do it, do it,” hitting each “do it” in time with the bulging horns. This little pairing of words and sounds gives the song a heartbeat that seems to come straight out of New Orleans.
On a more slowed and psychedelic tone, Rose gives listeners “For Your Consideration.” With spaced out, hard-hitting chords like those in Thomas Rhett’s “Die a Happy Man” or Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud,” it offers space for Rose’s voice to move. The reason for this space is to give Rose a chance to spit her spiteful lyrics without distraction: “Stuck in your lane in your own way now I’m afraid of where you’re going.” This seems to come at a good time, as it marks one of the two explicit songs on the record.
“Saint” is one to pay attention to not just because it is by far the leading streamed song at the moment but also because of its beautifully haunting background. Soft synths and scattered chords roam the scene behind Rose’s carefully lowered voice. Possibly the slowest song on the entire project, this is also the most vocally and melodically impressive. With hints of Smokey Robinson, Whitney Houston and of course the Alabama Shakes, the grooviness and beauty of this song cannot be overstated.
Nearing the end of the album, Rose lets her country side shine first with the song, “The Best in Me.” A simplistic happy song with a subtle drum and a vibrant slide guitar, this track is about others and ourselves bringing out “the best in me.” From here, she teams up with up-and-coming Red Dirt Country singer Marcus King (who does the brilliant “Wildflowers and Wine,” in case you haven’t heard it yet). The grooviness returns yet still with the country music roots. King’s voice can be heard softly yet clearly as his signature raspiness carries out the harmonies with Rose.
“Help Myself” is probably the most experimental song on this album. “I diagnose myself with the internet” begins the song over a worldly beat and continuous piano chords. She also “buys self-help books and calls it therapy.” This song is a fun and creative way of looking at sadness, in that everyone is just doing what they can to feel good.
The project ends on a jazzy note. An organ, electric guitar and upbeat tempo give “You Got Today” a strange, punky, jazzy type feel. However, with the inclusion of Rose’s modulated, booming voice, it takes on a new shape. Classic rock and roll is evoked and brings out one of the most enjoyable songs on the album. Backup singers’ “ooh’s,” repeated lines and yelling vocals constantly keep a listener engaged.
Overall, Have a Seat is phenomenal. Different feelings, different sounds, different energies are placed onto each song, giving them their own personality. The genius of Maggie Rose in this particular album comes with how she stresses her vocalizations. More energy and passion are added into lines that need more energy and passion. This, along with an astounding performance from producer Ben Tanner, makes Have a Seat is a widely accessible and respectable project.