New Orleans-based singer/songwriterEsther Roseintroduced her dreamy, twang-suffused retro-country sound and plain-spoken, often endurance-themed lyrics as a five-piece acoustic combo on 2017's This Time Last Night. Two years later, she returned with like-minded songs and a new bassist onYou Made It This Far. Her third album,How Many Times, finds her working with an outside producer for the first time, namelyRoss Farbeof NOLA synth pop outfitVideo Age. Without making any jarring adjustments to her winsome, down-home approach,How Many Timesslightly polishes production and expands arrangements, most notably adding electric guitarist Max Bien Kahn to her core band (fiddlerLyle Werner, lap steel guitaristMatt Bell, upright bassistDan Cutler, and drummerCameron Snyder). The musicians andRose's songcraft are both in top form of a set of spunky, heartbroken earworms, beginning with a title track that was written during a sober night of facing truths -- in this case, her relationship status. It opens with a moaning fiddle melody and sauntering rhythm section beforeRose, who sports a breezy, conversational vocal tone, begins to recount her day. Quickly dissatisfied, the more emphatic chorus asks, "How many times will you break my heart?" ("I thought I heard a sound/But there's no one else around..."). She then picks up the tempo from toe-tapper to hip-shaker with the equally tuneful "Keeps Me Running." The album continues to navigate brisk, cheerful ditties and more languid, regretful ones, though even a track like the musically bubbly "Good Time" offers "It's a real good time for bad timing" for its chorus hook. If there's a standout on the album, it's likely "My Bad Mood," a three-minute Western swing confection that includes a bona fide guitar solo, a verse melody that plays out like an elongated yodel, and the boyfriend's new girlfriend. WhileRose's music certainly has indie crossover appeal, in the grand tradition of classic country,How Many Timesis a relatable pick-me-up for those who may be feeling down.
AllMusic Review byMarcy Donelson