My father’s ancestors came from the Smoky Mountain region of North Carolina and Tennessee. I remember visiting my grandparents and the lifestyle and music was and remains very distinct to the area. Bluegrass music, tough ballads of loss, and stories of hardship dominate the stories and tales.
All of which brings is to Chelle Rose. While she is now living in Nashville, her music remains firmly rooted in her Appalachian roots. She has now released her second album, Ghost Of Browder Holler, which reconnects her to the people and heritage of her youth. Produced by Texas songsmith Ray Wylie Hubbard, the songs echo the beauty and harshness of life in this mountain area of the eastern United States.
She has gathered about her a number of musicians that fit in well with her style of music. Drummer Rick Richards, bassist George Reiff, electric guitarist Billy Cassis, mandolin player Brad Rice, keyboardist Ian McLagan, and acoustic guitarist/harmonica player Ray Wylie Hubbard all seem to be in touch with the music of the area. Rose accompanies herself on the acoustic guitar and her gravelly voice is synonymous with the region.
The opening track, “Browder Holler Boy,” establishes her tough tone and style. I don’t know whether to envy or feel sorry for the boy in question. “Caney Fork Tennessee” presents a lifestyle complete with chicken and dumplings and midnight like molasses. Just as you are getting comfortable she comes close to hitting you with a visceral rock song that ramps up the energy. This three-song stretch sets the tone for what will follow.
“Russ Morgan (Preacher Man)” is a caricature of the preachers that continually rise and fall in the area. “Leona Barnett” is the story of a woman who goes to work in the mines after he husband is killed in an accident. The palate is then cleared again by “Alimony,” which may have raw lyrics but is another guitar based energetic track.
Ghost Of Browder Holler finds Chelle Rose delving into her heritage. It may be raw, stark, and depressing in places but it is a personal and interesting look into not only her stories and memories but the ghosts of the area as well.