by J. Pepper
Lindsay Ell is a Calgary born – Nashville based, singer/songwriter/guitar player who has created an enjoyable debut album, The Project, which brings all her many talents front and center. The Project certainly lands in the modern country basket with bluesy guitar licks, Ell’s clear, strong vocals, and catchy songwriting. Of the twelve songs on The Project, Ell wrote nine of them. Even though this is her debut album, Ell has been around for a while, many have seen her at the Opry, on tour with headliners like Brad Paisley, and at giant festivals like Boots & Hearts. Now, with recent appearances on Jimmy Kimmel Live and the Today show, even more people will know about Ell.
“Waiting on You” is the opener on The Project. The album opens with Ell playing a catchy guitar figure on her strat, with a clean fender bell like tone. When her vocals enter, it is obvious that her voice has power, control and she sings with a lot of emotion. She is country, but not overtly, she could easily go into the pop direction with her voice, possibly a cross between powerhouses LeAnn Rimes and Christina Aguilera. She a nice blues overtone in both her guitar playing and her vocal inflections and ornaments.
A textural change happens with “Champagne,” the posh track blends a host of elements, sass, glamor and vocal attitude, making a crossover track that transports you to the far end of modern country. She still has just a little blues in there, a lot of pop and the instrumentation is more pop than country. Her syncopated chordal playing on the guitar is nice.
One element that makes The Project so distinctive is Ell’s ability to take common subject matters like love and relationships and flip them on their head, casting them in a fresh perspective, a fine example is “Mint,” which uses witty wordplay to compare a relationship to all the different meanings of the word mint, which is all tied together with a breezy beat. She touches on an entirely different emotion with “Castle” that has a very different vibe from the sassy “Champagne,” exploring society’s endless appetite when it comes to fame, fortune and never being satisfied in life, showing off the insightful side of her songwriting skills.
Ell right in the middle of her comfort zone as she delivers a fun song called “Good,” is a sweet spot for her. Ell is pours tons of emotion into her vocal delivery and on this track, there is a little more country twang to her voice. The vocal harmonies are effective and the catchy chorus and driving beat will certainly put a smile on all modern country fans. Her guitar playing is still a big part of the sound, which is good. The fills and rhythm parts are a unique bullet in this dynamic artist’s arsenal, and as she keeps evolving, I hope the guitar is always in the mix, as it’s a true asset for Ell.
The Project is a captivating collection of songs and the fact that they are so unique from one another is a part of the allure of each song. The unifying thread that holds the collection together is Ell’s supple and strong vocal abilities, catchy melodies and guitar playing. The album as a whole is almost like having a playlist of different artists on the radio and your playlist mix, and that’s meant as a compliment, Ell is a unique artist and with her varied songwriting style and trademark guitar playing, she is one to watch and collect her catalog as it is released.