Whether as part of a group (Ruth B8r Ginsburg, Nickel&Rose, New Boyz Club) or simply solo, Johanna Rose has long been one of Milwaukee’s finest artists. Except Rose hasn’t been a Milwaukee artist for a few years: In 2020, Rose packed up, moved to Vermont, and built a treehouse there. And yes, they currently live in that treehouse full time. So it only makes sense that Rose’s latest EP is called Can’t Love You From The Ground. Knowing Rose, it also makes sense that it’s one of the best things they’ve done.
The “American folk-inspired ode to their life in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom” opens with “What If I Told You,” a lonesome, heavy-lidded acoustic finger-picker that finds Rose pondering their physical and emotional coordinates. “I can spit to the wind, I can cry to the sky,” they sing, “But there ain’t no one else on this mountainside.” The EP takes its name from a lyric in the second song, “Carhartt Angel.” (“Said what you doing up there, won’t you come down? / Quit fooling around, I can’t love you from the ground.”) It’s a song that Rose describes as “a blue collar boot stomper about a back breaking job that keeps the lights on for us all.”
Rose plays upright bass and acoustic guitar throughout Can’t Love You From The Ground, and a host of friends help the EP reach even loftier heights. Will Hansen (Old Pup) and Ernest Brusubardis IV contribute pedal steel and fiddle, respectively, to “Carhartt Angel.” Nick Gamer and Bryan Wollen add extra guitars and vocals to the jaunty “Use It Up” (the only song not recorded in Rose’s treehouse). The woozy “Hard Liquor For Hard Times,” meanwhile, features piano work from longtime collaborator Katie Lyne. Unspeakably lovely closer “Dive In A Lake” is Rose-only, though it does hum with another presence: A rerecorded song from Rose’s past, “Dive In A Lake” is presented here as an ode to their father, who passed away in 2015.
Can’t Love You From The Ground follows a string of winning Rose releases: 2020’s postponedalone and Only Good Nights, and 2021’s Lunar Eclipse. Though Rose may call Vermont home these days, they’ll forever be a Milwaukee artist. We’ll continue to watch their career—even it means watching from across the country, peering up into the trees.
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