Gena Rose – Wild One Babe

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The unabashed sweet sincerity of singer songwriter Gena Rose Bruce is written all over the 2013 Telstra Road to Discovery winner’s first release and stunning debut. A melting pot of alt-country and folksy-pop, Wild One Babe contains five beautifully crafted tracks that are a joy to listen to. Tales of broken hearts and ‘bad boys’ are filled out with hooky riffs, rollicking guitar and a generous dose of that signature sweetness. It’s a little bit Taylor Swift, a little bit Lana Del Rey; but with a raw and undeniably Australian edge.

The opening song, ‘Jackson’ comes in with dramatic western-style guitar and glimmering rattles. It’s a foot-stomper of a track that builds to a brooding guitar-rich plateau before reaching its spine-tingling destination. Rolling melodies carry you along effortlessly, taking you from verse to bridge to hand-clapping chorus. The standout however is Gena’s vocals, as strong as they are fragile, they soar throughout the track, as she sings of a love “that was so innocent” becoming cruel.

The second track, ‘Old Love’ brings the tempo down a notch. While of the same country-pop pedigree, the song has a more wistful and nostalgic feel. Delightfully arranged and wonderfully produced, Gena’s vocal delivery soars once again as she sings of a tired, old love.

The EP’s third track, ‘I Need a Boyfriend’ is a cute whimsical ditty. It instantly reminded me of the SoKo song, ‘I’ll Kill Her’ that went a little viral a few years ago with its endearingly frank girlie-girl patois. But to be honest, it is probably my least favourite track on the EP. Nevertheless, it does have its appeals with its quirkiness and sugary sweetness. And with little spoken interludes and a good dose of sincerity, the song does grow on you with time.

‘What We Want,’ the record’s fourth track, however, is probably my favourite. It’s another foot-stomper that shows off Gena’s unique vocal style and is completely flawless in its production. Complete with rollicking riffs and gutsy vocals, it’ll have you tapping your toes all the way through.

The EP is drawn to a close with title-track, ‘Wild One Babe’. With a touch of blues and hints of melancholy, it is a beautiful finish to the record that flows along at a steady pace, carrying you along with it. Again it is beautifully produced, and it is clear that this is one of the biggest selling points on the record. While production can often suppress an artists’ sound, here there is still a lot of heart and a lot of Gena Rose Bruce on the record. Strong vocals, reminiscent of Little Birdy’s Katy Steele, are dusted off with vulnerability and the lyrics are honest and emotive.

All in all, it’s a highly professional record, revealing talent beyond Gena’s 20 years. There are gritty hand-clapping moments, and moments where you feel yourself being taken away by melodies that carry the lightness of a summer’s day.

Approached with an open mind and an open heart, with time you will find yourself falling in love with this spirited collection of tracks.