Music Reviews
How Many More Times

Esther Rose How Many More Times

(Father/Daughter) Rating - 8/10

On a Friday night, after your friends have left you alone at an outdoor establishment under strings of incandescent bulbs, you give yourself over to just one more Abita Turbodog. You lord over a picnic table littered with empties, crawfish exoskeletons, corn cobs, and layers of The Times-Picayune soaked through with a solution of water, Zatarain’s seasoning, the spray of burst corn kernels, and your own tears. Head in your palms, propped up by your elbows, you crane your neck to see the source of your sorrow is Esther Rose standing alone in a gazebo across the courtyard, strumming an acoustic guitar and singing the most beautifully sad song you have ever heard. Her band, given a brief break for her solo turn, sits down at your table and one of the members, having witnessed this scene on a million other occasions, reaches over, pats your back, and says, “It’s alright friend, we have to listen to these songs every night.” If that’s not where the New Orleans-based artist's third album, How Many More Times, puts you then you’ve either never been there or aren’t listening hard enough.

Over ten brisk, country-tinged tracks, Rose establishes herself as queen of the brokenhearted. Even the positively-titled Good Time is about bad timing in the ways of romance. She's surrounded herself with a bona fide cast of musicians that sympathetically support her swooping vocals or seamlessly race alongside her. Whether this specific lineup or a rotating cast, Rose’s comfort leads the crew through waltzes (My Bad Mood), fiddle reels (Without You), and lap steel weepers (When You Go)—screaming out for her backers to be granted a collective name.

Ironically though, the album’s centerpiece ends up being essentially a solo turn on Songs Remain. Rose’s plaintive and patient read of the loss of her “inner-city lumberjack” is as heart rending as they come and colored with specifics. The faster-paced Mountaintop allows the band to stretch out a bit as Rose longs for the one place she can come to grips with her topsy-turvy love life. Gone is any sense of tentativeness from Rose’s prior releases; her command of her own misery on How Many More Times is unchecked. Here's hoping she’s got a trove of similar songs packed away in case love finally breaks her way. Timeless and treasurable.