Esther Rose – ‘How Many Times’ album review

Photo credit: Akasha Rabut

New Orleans-based singer-songwriter Esther Rose’s honest folk storytelling has been compared to Hank Williams, Dean Johnson and Jenny Lewis. On new album ‘How Many Times’, she looks back over a tumultuous period in her life that saw three moves, the end of a relationship and constant touring – but with the attitude that what will be will be: ‘It’s not really just about feeling better, it’s about feeling it whatever it is’; ‘I accept my bad luck and good luck equally’.

‘How Many Times’ kicks off the record with observations about taking the trash and going out for meals (‘I’m never hungry, but I’m never full’) over a traditional country backing before Esther repeatedly asks the subject of her affections: ‘How many times will you break my heart?’ There are blasts of M. Ward-style guitar before she questions ‘Where are you now? Have you got it figured out?’ The uptempo and rhyhmic ‘Keeps Me Running’ follows with the strings driving it forward as Esther tries to find her place: ‘All my friends are at the show. I’m going but I don’t know where to go’. ‘Me and my bad mood don’t want to hear from you’ opens ‘My Bad Mood’ in assertive fashion while the pedal steel guitar rises to the surface and Esther talks about the pain of a break up but then flips it and looks at the opportunities: ‘I’d rather be between the sheets with somebody new’.

‘Coyote Creek’ is more intense and atmospheric as Esther delivers a masterclass in storytelling and her desire to fall into someone’s ‘ever-loving arms, right where I belong’. ‘Good Time’ is a celebration of recklessness and enjoying yourself set against a soulful ‘6s soundtrack (‘She’s such a bore, I love you more’), while ‘When You Go’ has Esther accepting her lot in life and whatever fate has in store: ‘I hope to someday see what’s in your head’. ‘Songs Remain’ continues in this vein as she looks back on the end of a relationship and all its good and bad parts: ‘I am glad it was you that broke my heart’; ‘A part of me lives on in you’. The fiddle and upright bass surrounds the stream-of-consciousness lyrics on ‘Mountaintop’ (‘Take me to your room, I want to be alone’) before the penultimate ‘Are You Out There’ takes the record into an orchestral and melodic space that sits somewhere between Bright Eyes and Rilo Kiley: ‘There is no one that I long to kiss but you’. ‘Without You’ finishes the album in style as Esther looks back on touring experiences – ‘Are you coming to my show?’ – and how without her ex, she feels like ‘I am travelling alone without you, like a lock without a key, bird without a tree’.

We don’t know ‘How Many Times’ we’ll listen to this poignant, honest and ultimately uplifting album but it’s sure to be on repeat for a while yet.

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