New Englander and 10-year UK resident Eileen Rose follows up her critically acclaimed debut Shine Like It Does with this accomplished and developed record, rooted firmly in Nashville but with branches pointing in lots of directions.
If a novena is a nine-day prayer for intercession then Long Shot Novena is the prayer answered. The opening downbeat title track, featuring a simple almost dirgey arrangement of hand claps, guitar chords and Rose’s varied and warmly human voice backed by synths, is a song of escape, of “floating away”. There are hints of The Velvet Underground to be found here in a song that is at once sedate and restrained.
It is not indicitive of the whole album, for other songs are rather happier. Snake, featuring The Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock, is infectiously jaunty. A gripping duet with Kris Dollimore (formerly of The Godfathers) features the choice line “I’m gonna schimmy ’til I shed my skin” and Matlock’s bass adds much to an already great singalong tune.
Fans of Shine Like It Does will find familiar vibes from Good Man, an alt-country affair with steel guitar that calls Dylan to mind. Eileen can of course sing far better than he ever could. Wheels Going By would also not sound out of place on her debut record.
Rose has supported Ani DiFranco and Alabama 3 live and she’s signed to the same label as The Strokes. Long Shot Novena ought to do well if the world contains any justice, for it is an album which highlights Eileen Rose’s developing songwriting range and vocal mastery with songs like Two In One in particular, whilst unequivocally putting lesser guitar-brandishing females from across the pond in the shade along the way.
While the album is sadder than it’s predecessor, there is depth and personal feeling to be found in the lyrics throughout as well as instrumental inventiveness. White Doves Wake, for example, features drums which manage to sound like fireworks, whilst the title track manages to get analogue synths to sound like mutant guitars to great effect.
But, just as we’re getting to like the record, the final singalong-around-the-campfire song Big Dog suggests that after 10 years as a UK resident, she might be about to leave the land of “tupperware skies”. “Don’t get me wrong, you folks are alright / And it’s been international / but I’m going home,” she says. We must all try to stop her.