"The Last Wildflower" may be the oldest song on Alexa Rose's upcoming album Medicine For Living, but the version she recorded, premiering exclusively on Billboard today (Sept. 17), is something entirely different from its original incarnation.
The song originally appeared on Low and Lonesome, Rose's second independently released album, in 2017. But as she and producers Bruce Watson and Clay Jones began working on Medicine For Living, her national debut for Big Legal Mess, they considered material from the other two albums and wound up giving "The Last Wildflower" a makeover.
"It was definitely one of the songs I was a little more disenchanted with at the time," Rose tells Billboard. "But we basically cut the time in half from how I've ever played it. I remember I took it home and my partner who listened to it said, 'This sounds like [the Grateful Dead's] American Beauty or something. This is crazy!' The lyrics are pretty sparce in it, and I think open-ended, so coming back to it several years later it's been nice to feel it connect to my life in different ways now."
Medicine For Living, which comes out Oct. 4, features other recast songs from the Memphis-based Rose's two independent albums, as well as some new compositions. "It's like a compilation of songs that I've written over the last seven or eight years, so quite a mixture," she says.
She was introduced to Big Legal Mess chief (and Fat Possum general manager) Watson through Tim Duffy and his Music Maker Relief Foundation, and wound up with a label deal she wasn't pursuing at the time. "Not that I wasn't interested, certainly," Rose notes, "but I was just doing my own thing, driving around the country and happy to play wherever I could. This was a very happy surprise."
Medicine For Living was recorded at Watson's Delta-Sonic Studio, with a band that included Will Sexton on guitar and members of Lucero and St. Paul & the Broken Bones, among others — none of whom had met Rose or even heard the songs before the sessions.
"I wasn't sure what was going to happen, but I was alright with that," Rose acknowledges. "I think really cool things can happen when you just let go of control and don't try to overplan something, especially with music. It's best when the song is at its freshest and you haven't overplayed it."
Rose does say that she had reservations about including some of the older tracks but warmed to the idea as the sessions got going.
"When I heard the band play them and realized they were still relevant and did connect with the newer songs, I got it," she says now. "It really rejuvenated things for me, especially the ones that are five or six years old. It made them brand new songs again."