Lindsay Ell – Heart Theory (BBR/BMG)
At a time when the lines between country, rock and pop are becoming increasingly blurred, the multi-talented Lindsay Ell is a triple threat primed to explode.
With former Giant man Dann Huff helming yet another Grammy contender – 31 years after Last Of The Runaways emerged as a true melodic rock classic – Heart Theory benefits from a reassuringly robust production.
Soaring riffs and beefy bass lines put clear water between Ell and her poppier peers.
And Huff’s stamp is writ large across an incredibly immersive album – the accomplished musician adding guitars, keys, ganjo, bazouki, mandolin and more to a heady mix of immersive sounds.
Ell had been keen to work with Heart Theory’s producer for some time.
Apparently Huff was top of her list when she rolled into Nashville a decade ago.
And there’s no doubt there’s a unique chemistry and a shared vision driving a searingly honest lifework.
Emotionally, Ell leaves no stone unturned on Heart Theory.
And there are times when the frank lyrical content is a pretty tough listen.
But country’s finest traditions ring true through Heart Theory’s heartbreakers and tearjerkers.
And Ell’s convincing storytelling is rich in authenticity.
The juxtaposition of Good On You’s jaunty melody and piercing commentary is pure genius.
It’s laid back, laid bare, country pop brilliance.
The Other Side is a disappointingly bland misstep that leans too heavily on Taylor Swift.
But it’s the only example of a dip in quality.
And a mercifully brief diversion into lounge music territory is instantly forgotten.
Go To, poignant piano ballad Make You and Ready To Love – the set-closing redemption song bursting with optimism – wrap up a richly rewarding record in fine style.
Heart Theory might be rooted in vulnerability but it’s a rallying call for the rejected and a blueprint for recovery.
After three years away, Ell deserves immense credit for crafting this seriously affecting comeback.
Enlisting Huff clearly elevated Heart Theory to the next level.
And surely this is only the end of the beginning for a partnership screaming potential.
Main Image By Jeremy Cowart