Release Date: Apr 7, 2017
Record label: Hot Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
In the seven years since Karen Elson's The Ghost Who Walks, there have been glimpses of the woman who was to emerge on Double Roses. A haunted take on Lyle Lovett's "If I Had A Boat" for the film Still Alice, joining Michael Stipe for a rendition of "Ashes To Ashes" at last year's David Bowie tribute concert and reimagining Lou Reed's "Vicious" for Record Store Day or Stevie Nicks' "Gold Dust Woman" for the Fleetwood Mac tribute album Just Tell Me That You Want Me displayed a restiveness that suggested there was more to her music than her debut album suggested. Double Roses, named for a poem in Sam Shepard's Motel Chronicles, continues her ethereal musicality, but embraces her Britishness within.
With Double Roses, Karen Elson proves that the seven-year wait between this album and The Ghost Who Walks was worth it. As she expands on the gift for setting a mood she displayed on her debut, she also takes her music in a more personal direction, trading theatrical murder ballads for portraits of sorrow and strength that evoke British psych-folk and Laurel Canyon singer/songwriters -- as well as hints of Dolly Parton, Stevie Nicks, and Mazzy Star. The album sounds huge and intimate at the same time: on "Wonder Blind," swirling flutes, harp, and church bells heighten the introspection as Elson begins the album with a farewell that blends sorrow and fondness perfectly.
Perhaps fittingly for the work of someone who started their career as a model, there is a poise to Double Roses that comes straight from the big book of elegant artifice. It is gorgeous - almost too richly so. The list of collaborators on this, Karen Elson's second album, includes Father John Misty, George Harrison's son Dhani and Heartbreakers' keyboardist Benmont Tench, all of whom have, unsurprisingly, helped deliver an album steeped in Americana refracted through a romantic vision of Laurel Canyon.
Seven years have passed since Oldham-born, Nashville-based Karen Elson released debut album The Ghost Who Walks, a work that was notable less for its solid collection of murder ballads and blues jams than the person who produced it: the model and singer-songwriter's then-husband Jack White. In the time since, the pair have undergone a not terribly amicable separation (though are reportedly now friends), and Elson's musical tastes seem to have drifted away from White's bluesy leanings and towards something more luscious and Laurel Canyon-esque. Double Roses is produced by long-time Father John Misty collaborator Jonathan Wilson, and features the sort of orchestral flourishes present in Misty's own work.
Usually, a seven-year gap between a debut album and its follow-up would raise eyebrows aplenty, but in the case of Karen Elson, it's not especially surprising. Fairly or otherwise, her career as a musician has never been top of the list of talking points when her name's brought up; for a start, it's not her primary pursuit in life, and she's attributed the long lay-off to her 'day job' - modelling. On top of that, it was difficult not to make reference to her marriage when she released her first album, 'The Ghost Who Walks', in 2010 - Jack White did, after all, produce it.
Back in 2010 Third Man Records had truly began its singular vision of bringing vinyl and old timey sensibilities back into an industry whose future wasn't looking too bright at all. Amongst this first wave of releases was Karen Elson's disarmingly atmospheric and gleefully gothic 'The Ghost Who Walks'. It was an assured set of melancholic numbers heavily influenced by both her adopted hometown of Nashville and then-husband Jack White's production.