Album | Esther Rose – Safe to Run

Esther Rose has lived a bit of a nomadic existence, and now living in Santa Fe, after stays in Columbiaville, Michigan; and New Orleans, Safe to Run suggests that trading places has had a certain appeal. It’s as if she is one of those artists that seems to find a kind of comfort in a more transitory existence. On this, her fourth long player, she seems to have found her wandering as a way to connect with more sides of who she really is.

Life in Santa Fe has spurred new ways of looking at her world. She admits, “Writing from depths never explored and feeling sometimes like I was losing my mind, a softness unfurled. I’ve moved out of a chaotic, transitional place. I’m not running anymore. This album feels different to me than everything I’ve made before it. But who knows? I’ve traded hurricanes for wildfires.” Her writing, however, has become a bit more hook oriented as she has taken stock of who she is and who she’s becoming in this new environment.

‘Chet Baker’ signals the change as she opens up singing, “Welcome to the middle of the road, rock and roll/ and I try to find my way in, thick skin/ Memory I’ve kept under lock and key,” what she becomes clear in this song is just how much things have changed. The music also reflects the change as the steel guitars and rolling drums leaven a song describing a youthful car crash. Not exactly the subject matter one might expect, but in Rose’s hands it becomes a song about played out memories.

‘Spider’ spins a web but not necessarily one that you want to get caught up in. “I’m searching for three chords and the truth/ I’m coming in quietly as a fuse,” yet what she finds is a song of realisation that things aren’t always what they seem. Steel guitars sweeten the scene but what leaps out at you is something much different. “And you drain me out, leaving me useless and blue/ So blue.” Appearances can be deceiving, and Rose’s response offers that she’s not falling into that particular web.

The fuller arrangements of Safe to Run, complete with synthesizer, pedal steel and fiddle, and subject matter that goes far beyond simple relationships reflects how far Rose has come on her journey. ‘Safe to Run’, with harmonies by Alynda Segarra of Hurray for the Riff Raff, details situations on both personal and planetary levels. “Let the angels find me/ I don’t care/ If the whiskey drowns me/ In the poisoned air/ You know there’s no place/ Safe to run.” Esther Rose continues to create some of the most compelling music around on Safe to Run. Her maturity as a writer and confidence as a singer allows her to cover subjects and relationships in a way few artists have been able to master.