Honky-tonk angel Selena Rosanbalm (Rosie) and her band the Ramblers make music that’s honest, funny, and occasionally biting. Several mainstream country artists have become infamous for their sound bites about the “evolution” of country music, but the Austin, Texas-based Ramblers’ full length debut Whatever You Need provides an actual (and admirable) template for building a bridge between a sound that is both traditional and contemporary. Rosanbalm’s thoughtful lyrics, toe-tapping melodies, and strong hooks merge with expressive pedal steel to create a thoroughly enjoyable recording.
Led by Rosanbalm, the band (which includes lead guitarist Matt Thomas, pedal steel guitar player Bob Hoffnar, bassist Vance Hazen and drummer Mike Bernal on the record, Thomas, Hoffnar, Hazen and drummer Jeff Sanders live) fleshes out multidimensional songs that highlight both the glorious and ugly nature of imperfections, the prick of heartbreak, and the steady resolve needed to overcome one’s own doubts and fears. At once timely and timeless, Rosanbalm’s greatest gift as a songwriter is her ability to make these stories become our stories.
Among the album’s best musical punches is the potent, poignant one-two-three combination of “Tall, Dark, and Lonesome”, “Three Bronze Beauty Queens”, and “11 am.” My personal favorite “Three Bronze Beauty Queens” acts as an extended metaphor for Rosanbalm’s own resistance to conformity, but she might as well be speaking for anyone who’s ever tried to find his/her own niche. With Whatever You Need, Rosanbalm’s definitely found hers.