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When Sally Rose describes her musical history, she counts back on fingers and toes — a few borrowed from her hound dog, Arlo — to recall her melodious beginnings. “When my mother was pregnant with me, was a member of the African Dance Co. I found rhythm in the womb,” Sally Rose explains.
With a head start — and that name to boot — Sally Rose was born a musician. At 8, she was writing music. At 11, playing guitar. Like all teens (not!), Sally Rose became serious about her craft in high school, fine-tuning her song writing and producing her first album, Home shortly after sweet 16. She followed up her debut with Heat Lightning at 18 and her first live album at 20. By this time, she’d also begun making music with her mother, the pair playing around with spooky blood harmonies — vocals spiraling around each other like a double helix; they officially collaborated under the moniker, witchbaby.
In each album you hear it, looming and lovely in every song: Sally Rose is at home. Her voice puts you on the porch swing of the cabin she built with her father; you can hear in her music that she is a good daughter, sister, and friend. Her hometown, deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains, is the kind of place that people fall in love with (they seem to sigh its name, Nelson County). The locals are especially proud of this hometown hero. In praise for Sally Rose and the Sally Rose Band, her name is eternally tied to Nelson. CVILLE calls her, “Nelson County’s sweet voiced singer-songwriter,” while Adam Gripp of Magazine 33 writes, “One of the finest singers/songwriters/guitarists this lovely area has offered yet.”
Sure, Sally Rose writes about the big L’s, love, lust, and loss — but good luck finding a cliché in these sometimes sweet, sometimes ferocious Southern melodies. As the lead singer and guitarist of the Sally Rose Band, a project she calls “a full-out lovey, dovey family rock n’ roll band,” she riffs on the energy of her relationships with her band mates. Her mom, Catherine “Shootin' Moon” Monnes plays fiddle, cello, and rub board while singing blood harmonies with Sally Rose; her brother-in-law “Big Nasty” Ben Jensen brings a serious jazz education into the mix, weaving in complex stops and intriguing fills on the upright bass and drums; and her beau, “Sweet Pete” Stallings, infuses her folky songs with a pop-rock-funk texture on lead guitar (while toting a pocketful of the pair’s love duets).
If you haven’t heard the Sally Rose Band, it’s time. Every fourth Friday, the group plays at the Blue Moon Diner, a bar in Charlottesville that is well-loved for being well-loved. They also make rounds at the Pavilion’s Fridays after Five, Clementine Cafe, the Southern Music Hall, the Jefferson Theatre, and the Purple Fiddle. The Sally Rose Band recently signed on with Country Wide Records, and will put out their first recording, a five-song EP, this June. Added to the regular roster, Oh my Stars! features Stuart Gunter on the drums and kick-ass songstress Sarah White on vocals, and will be released at the Southern Music Hall in Charlottesville, and Rapunzel’s in Nelson County.
Listening to this music is like being invited over for dinner by a sweet, small-town girl and her family to find not only does the food taste this good, but these are the coolest people you’ve ever met. It’s the kind of music that you want to make your music, the family you want to make your family, the home you want to call your home. If you’ll listen, chances are she’s willing to share.