Kelsea Ballerini – Kelsea (Black River Entertainment)
Kelsea Ballerini might get a bad rap from grizzled country die-hards.
And it’s easy to understand why.
The pretty face, the pop sensibility and slick production are right on trend.
The big-name collabs with Halsey and Kenny Chesney are cheerfully commercial.
And an Ed Sheeran co-write will have the Nashville naysayers choking on their fried chicken.
But the trad country vibe is still very much in evidence.
And Ballerini cuts through the critical noise to deliver a genre-busting belter.
Half Of My Hometown – featuring Chesney – is an obvious highlight.
But A Country Song comes close as a not-so-subtle riposte to those who continue to question Kelsea’s credentials.
This self-titled show of strength boasts guts and sparkle in equal measure.
It’s both flashy and functional.
Authentic and ambitious.
Ballerini is more Kacey Musgraves than Cadillac Three.
But don’t let that put you off some of the best country music we’ve heard all year.
It’s bright, breezy and just occasionally cheesy: Love And Hate is a little too toe curling for comfort.
But opener Overshare is some of the 26-year-old’s finest work to date.
And set closer LA bookends a record that’s both heartfelt and heartwarming.