Review: Wild Rose

Wild Rose follows Glaswegian Rose-Lynn Harlan on her journey to become a country star, despite being recently released from prison and being a single mother to two young children. This is a classic rags to riches narrative that country music is so fond of. Played by Jesse Buckley, Rose-Lynn is a bright disaster of a person – she’s talented but can’t seem to make her big break and doesn’t seem capable of taking on her own responsibilities, including caring for her children. The odds are stacked against her and we spend much of the film rooting for her.

Despite country music and Rose-Lynn’s deep love for the genre – she even has ‘three cords and the truth’ tattooed on her forearm – the film doesn’t take many pains to flesh that relationship out. Rose-Lynn doesn’t write her own music, or play guitar, or even seemingly to have an attachment to a specific musician. Country has a deep tradition of heartache and you could draw a parallel between the lives of Hank Williams and Rose-Lynn. Williams was the granddaddy of country and damaged many of his relationships with his mother, estranged wife, and his sobriety, in order to play at the Nashville Opry stage. Rose-Lynn has much of the same ambition and her goal throughout was to make it to Nashville, and when she succeeds she even sneaks onto the Opry stage and sings a song before being kicked out. However, because the film doesn’t discuss or show the importance of Nashville to stars like Hank Williams or Dolly Parton, the moment feels less than emphatic, lost in translation.

The same could be said of the relationships closer to Rose-Lynn’s day to day life. Her relationship with her children always feels slightly estranged, even when the film makes a turn and she makes more of an effort to know them. In part this is due to a lack of characterisation and history. We never really know very much about the children, other than they’re something tying Rose-Lynn to Scotland, stopping her from her pursuing her dreams full-time. We also never really understand the situation that saw Rose-Lynn with two young children under the age of ten. Rose-Lynn also has a boyfriend who seems to disappear entirely before the third-act and doesn’t offer much at all in the way narratively.

The richest relationships Rose-Lynn has are between the woman she cleans for and her own mother. Rose-Lynn’s mother wants her to settle down and take responsibility for herself and her children, while her boss is the only person actively encouraging her to pursue her country career. The two women are opposing forces in the singer’s life, and ultimately she decides to try and find a middle ground.

Despite the wobbly characterisation, Wild Rose is home to some very funny, sweet moments. Jesse Buckley brings a lot of brightness and spunk to Rose-Lynn and sings very sweetly. Mostly, Wild Rose made me want to listen to Dolly Parton’s ‘9 to 5’ at volume and dance around my room. I’d recommend this film if you’re looking for some light fun and some country heartache.


Words by Riana Kinlough


Justin Townes Earle at The Crown and Anchor

Adelaideans have long lamented the number of international acts we miss out on from year to year. Not so with Justin Townes Earle, who not only includes our fine little town in his tour itinerary, but also plays intimate pub gigs instead of overpriced stadiums. Supported by local country rockers The Bitter Darlings, and fellow Southerner Joshua Hedley, Justin Townes Earle dropped by the Cranka for a mid-week special, backed up by the inimitable Paul Niehaus on lap steel and guitar.

Setting the tone for a soulful evening in the Cranka’s well-loved ballroom, front man for The Bitter Darlings, Marcello Cole, let his soul do the talking, embracing the crowd with his vocals, rough edged and rich. Bandmate Nicholas Cioffi provided a perfect counterpoint with his superb guitar work, winding intricate harmonies around lyrics that immortalise South Australian towns and highways. The duo dressed the part in cowboy shirts and boots, and left the punters dreaming of their next hit of Tex Perkins magnetism and Johnny Cash tenderness. Country rock and blues to the bone, these boys did Adelaide proud.

Joshua Hedley is Nashville through and through. He wears a big hat, a big belt buckle, and a big attitude. And he don’t take no mess, having to silence rude punters with good grace and humour not once but twice throughout his set. With a voice smoother than molasses and twice as sweet, the crowd were transported from our little pub to the Grand Ole Opry. Joshua Hedley is a prolific singer-songwriter, taking the opportunity to treat us to three songs he had written while staying in Adelaide, as well as a Willie Nelson cover, and the classic love song ‘Sweet Memories’. While the accent and the outfit saw quite a number of fans swooning – he even had crisp line pressed into the front of his trousers- what will stay with me is the craftsmanship of a country superstar on the rise. One to watch.

The main drawcard approached the stage through the crowd in his usual manner; humble, warm, understated. Justin Townes Earle wore triple denim and spectacles, unassuming as he approached the microphone. Sexy as hell and with a wicked sense of humour, Justin has always been a darling with Australian audiences. Treating us to no less than nineteen tunes, and peppering his set with anecdotes and the odd dirty joke, this gig was yet another triumph for the rebel kid made good. Standout songs included Townes Earle’s tribute to Billie Holiday, ‘White Gardenias’, and crowd favourite, ‘Mama’s Eyes’, but the eclectic set also included a Paul Simon cover.

Played through the Cranka’s bass-loving stacks, Justin Townes Earle was in fine voice, while Paul Niehaus provided faultless support vocals and lap steel accompaniment. Vocal harmonies enriched Townes Earle’s ordinarily solitary compositions, and by the end of the set the punters were feeling sentimental and softly singing along. We filed into the cool spring twilight singing the ‘Harlem River Blues’. Adelaide may not draw all the big names, but I’d take a pub gig over a stadium any day. Where else can you share a joke with the headliner on the side of the road? A show like this promises to stay with you and keep you warm on lonely nights. Unforgettable.

Words by Heather McGinn.