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REVIEW: ROSE ZITA FALKO – WESLEY ANNE, MELBOURNE

REVIEW: ROSE ZITA FALKO – WESLEY ANNE, MELBOURNE


Rose Zita Falko

Original Son EP Launch
‘Wesley Anne’, Northcote, June 8, 2018
Review: Garry Chapman Photos: Jason Rosewarne

The broad smile on Rose Zita Falko’s face said it all as she stepped up to the microphone. This was going to be a night to have fun and enjoy great music, and no one was planning to have a better time than Rose herself. In the intimate setting of the band room at ‘Wesley Anne’, one of Melbourne’s coolest live music venues, family, friends and music lovers had gathered to help Rose launch her debut EP ‘Original Son’.

Rose was at the door to greet many of the patrons personally as they arrived. She’d arranged champagne and cupcakes with pink icing as a welcome treat. The atmosphere was warm and inviting as they settled into seats at the candlelit tables. The room soon filled. It was standing room only for the last few to enter the room as Rose’s good friend, Brooke Russell, took the stage for the opening set.

Brooke, on vocals and acoustic guitar, was accompanied by Ben Franz on pedal steel. Close your eyes and you could have been in Nashville. Her self-penned melancholy country songs of love and heartache were warmly received with generous applause. Brooke, herself, by contrast, was upbeat and cheerful. “Practising to sing like Linda Ronstadt makes your voice a little bit bigger,” she wryly observed as she launched into Warren Zevon’s ‘Carmelita’, once covered so memorably by Linda herself.

Brooke and Ben returned to the stage a short time later as members of Rose’s backing band. They were joined by Mitch Power on electric guitar, Zac Watson on bass and Chelsea Allen on drums. Front and centre was Rose. This was her night. We were in for a special treat.

Rose was so pleased that we had all come along on a cold Friday night to celebrate the occasion with her. She had promised there would be a few surprises, and the first of them was immediate as the familiar opening lines of Cold Chisel’s ‘Bow River’ filled the room. ‘Listen now …’ she sang, and I was already captivated by the power of her big, big voice.

But we only got a few lines of ‘Bow River’ before Rose had slipped easily into one of her own songs. She is passionate about both singing and songwriting, having grown up surrounded by many forms of music from an early age. “I love singing and songwriting,” she said. “I decided some time ago that’s all I want to do.” So Rose left her home in the city and moved to the country for a time and immersed herself in songwriting. She read lots of literature and poetry, then picked up her guitar and began to write songs. “It’s always the melody and the lyrics that come first.” The story builds and the instrumentation develops around that.

‘Highway Song’ was the first tune from the ‘Original Son’ EP to feature in the set. Rose has done a lot of driving down lonely country roads, often comforted by listening to a favourite road trip song. She needed to write her own highway song. ‘Highway Song’ is a little slice of Americana, but it’s just the tonic for a long, lonely drive on a remote Australian bush road.

‘I’ve seen the sunrise, I‘ve seen the sunset, I’ve seen it all and I kept driving by …’

A songwriting retreat had provided the impetus for Rose to collaborate with some of this land’s finest country musicians, and Kevin Bennett and Felicity Urquhart also penned songs with her. Though Rose was the sole writer of most of the songs performed on this evening, she was delighted to introduce Brooke, who joined in on harmonies, as her songwriting partner on ‘Pardon Me Son’.

Rose doesn’t think of herself as solely a country singer, though that is where she feels her ‘community’ fits. She has a background in musical theatre, and has sung jazz, operetta, folk and a number of other musical genres. The magic of her remarkable voice allows her to move effortlessly between genres. “I treat my voice like an instrument,” she said.

A challenge from singer-songwriter Jeremy Edwards to write a happy song brought a mood change to the set as Rose and the band, with Brooke harmonising, began to swing, and around the room the feet started tapping.

“There’s nothing happier than a sunny afternoon.”

For just a brief moment, Rose began singing ‘Bow River’ again. What a voice! It was tantalising, but it was just a few lines and then it was gone again.

‘Heavenly Father’ is the last song on the EP, a slower, melancholy number. It’s both dark and beautiful and when you listen you can’t fail to be moved by it. There were moments in the song where her mournful, bluesy vocals brought flashbacks of the first time I heard Janis singing ‘Ball and Chain.

“Heavenly Father
Please hold me tight
I feel this is the darkest
Darkest of night”

As the band picked up the tempo, so did the singer. Her vocal range is extraordinary. Her singing is absolutely captivating. The song drew extended applause. Rose was clearly moved by the response.

The theme of loneliness is woven like a thread through each of the five songs on ‘Original Son’. Rose explains that there’s more than one form of loneliness here. Loneliness, as in these songs, can take many forms – a solo journey down a lonely road, a lonely traveller in a relationship – everyone has their own loneliness story.

‘Old Memory’, also from the EP, is a co-write with Felicity Urquhart. It’s a slow alt-country tune. It could be a happy song … or it could be sad, depending on your own personal story. Rose leaves that up to you, but it won’t fail to move you either way.

“I’m going home….See you on down the road”

The first single from the EP was ‘A Town Called Lonely’. It’s a classic country song which highlights Rose’s accomplished skills as a songwriter. The accompanying music video depicts long, lonely country roads and in the final shot Rose walks slowly away from the camera down a road that leads to who knows where.

“It’s a few degrees above a place called Heartbreak
And when you drive on in you’ll never make it home”

Rose has a long, promising career ahead of her. She’ll write many more great songs and she’ll continue to explore new themes and extend her vocal boundaries. But I suspect she’ll always find a place in her setlist for ‘A Town Called Lonely’. It is iconic, and Rose and her band gave it the treatment it deserved. It was literally a showstopper. The applause from the band room was generous and prolonged. Rose beamed. Deservedly so. She couldn’t have asked for a more perfect launch for her debut recording. Her songwriting gift, her remarkable voice, her professionalism, warm and welcoming stage presence, and her genuine delight in the patrons’ response had made it a musical evening to remember.

Oh, and Bow River? Fortunately, Rose had saved it up for the encore – another of the surprises she promised. She said she’d always wanted to sing like Jimmy Barnes – loud, happy and fun. And sometimes she just wanted to scream! And this time we got the whole song .. and it was so damn good, you would be forgiven for thinking Ian Moss had Rose in mind when he wrote it.

Rose has many more songs and big plans for the future. Remember her name. You won’t regret it.

‘Original Son’ by Rose Zita Falko is available now at
https://itunes.apple.com/au/artist/rose-zita-falko/1381548686