ALBUM REVIEW: Nalani Rothrock Showcases Powerhouse Vocals On ‘The Rock House Sessions’

From the first electric guitar notes that lead into the soulful sway of “Every Time I Close My Eyes,” Nalani Rothrock’s debut album, The Rock House Sessions, wastes no time reeling the listener in.

Chock full of deep-rooted heart and soul, Rothrock’s 9-track record – which dropped this past Friday December 30th – delivers an array of feels, catchy bangers, anthemic sing-alongs, and she does it all with an effortless touch.

The Tampa Bay native harnesses mountain-moving vocals with an R&B flair and some subtle jazzy undertones, as featured in the second track, “Fool For You,” which dropped as a single in April.

“I love you but I hate it / This fairytale is overrated / Let’s get this out of the way / Because baby I can’t stay,” she sings over the smooth gliding lounge-like instrumentation.

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The Rock House Sessions

Rothrock’s stand-out March single, “Hold On,” captures the feeling of standing up for yourself against a partner, demanding that she won’t be mistreated and undervalued by them anymore, with the hook bluntly stating, “Hold on baby / I can’t let ya do me like that.”

Comparatively, the somber yet still jazzy groove of “Midnight” voices the challenge of missing your lover after a breakup. Struggling to sleep at night, Rothrock sings, “It’s always hardest in the darkness,” channeling some kind of Amy Winehouse/Norah Jones hybrid. 

But it’s not all jazzy soulful groovers throughout the album. The seventh track, “Goodbye,” offers a more tender and ballad-like feel, exhibiting the pain of heartbreak sung over gentle guitar and piano.

The closing track, “Hey Little Bird”, strays from the overall theme and is not explicitly about love. As she considers signs she may be seeing from on high, Rothrock sings with a tone full of hope and optimism in the face of the future. It’s a bright and feel-good track with a notable slide guitar that delicately wraps up the album.

“Hold On”

The Rock House Sessions showcases Rothrock’s ability to swoon the listener and leave them anticipating her every note. She is a unique musical force in the Nashville scene, and frankly a breath of fresh air. Capturing the unpredictability of relationships and the inner turmoil that inevitably comes with matters of the heart, each track on the album narrates a part of the emotional experience.

Rothrock and her co-writer and partner Joshua Lamkin quickly became acquainted with Grammy-winning producer Kevin McKendree, owner of The Rock House studio in Franklin, outside of Nashville. The namesake of her latest album, McKendree’s studio has been pivotal in her transitional era of music. 

The album was produced, recorded and mixed by McKendree at his studio. It features Rothrock on vocals, Lamkin on guitar, McKendree on keys, Steve Mackey (bass), Kenneth Blevins (drums), Lynn Williams (drums), Bryan Brock (percussion), Andrew Carney (trumpet), and Nicole Boggs, Jonell Mosser and Jackie Wilson (background vocals).

About the move to Nashville from her home state of Florida, Rothrock said, “There is something so inspiring about leaving all you’ve ever known and starting a life in a new community that is driven and powered by music.”

The Rock House Sessions is a dynamic debut from this burgeoning soul songstress, and 2023 looks to be a promising year for Rothrock.

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