Album Review: Lindsay Ell - “The Project”

One of Nashville’s most-talented and loved artists is ready to break out nationally with this 12 track debut.

It’s about time a talent as ginormous as Lindsay Ell gets her shot to usher a full-length album out to market. While early efforts showcased her talents, working with Kristian Bush in the producer’s chair has allowed Lindsay to shine in a way that accentuates every nuanced talent she has as a singer, songwriter and guitarist. Imagine, if you could while listening to The Project, and you’ll hear an artist who is equal parts Bonnie Raitt, Sheryl Crow and Dolly Parton. This is Lindsay Ell.

Writing songs with singular words as the title for seven of the dozen tracks brings forth the songwriting element as it’s quite hard to rise above a generic title yet Lindsay does so time and again throughout The Project. “Champagne” (a co-write with Walker Hayes and Fred Wilhelm) blends some classic pop sounds with modern guitar tones and a vocal which finds Lindsay singing about how special and ‘bubbly’ she feels with the man in her life. There’s a serious Amy Winehouse vibe to the whole production that makes the song stand out within modern country music, something we should want from our artists. “Castle” has a similar retro feel only this time it feels more like a groove-filled country/pop blend with a slight nod to John Mayer’s blend of silky guitar tones and melodic sing-a-long verses. “Mint” is unique in that it blends the sounds found on the previously two mentioned tunes with lyrics which are downright unique with the “mint” phrase replacing “perfect.” “Criminal” is yet another guitarist song while “Wildfire” is the lone place where we get the opportunity to hear an extended guitar solo, this one happening at the end of the radio-ready track which clearly has echoes of Crow’s “Steve McQueen” in its DNA.

There are only a handful of outside tracks (i.e. not written by Lindsay Ell) and both are co-written by fellow female country stars. “White Noise” comes from the mighty pen of Kelsea Ballerini and blends what Kelsea does lyrically with a B3-laced, head-noddin’ groove that can only be described as Lindsay Ell. “Always Kiss The Girl,” comes from Carly Pearce (the current hit “Every Little Thing”) has some strong bass and percussive elements backing Ell’s guitar and voice as she tells a story on a song which feels like a hit to my ears. “Space,” from three strong artists and writers (Caitlyn Smith, Maggie Chapman and Heather Morgan) was one of my favorites from Lindsay’s Worth The Wait EP released earlier this year and it still remains an nuanced yet fire-y (some might say show-stopping) vocal moment for Lindsay.

The album closes with “Worth The Wait” and it’s a fitting closer to the album as it serves as Lindsay Ell’s perfect closer and a metaphor for her own career and the path to the release of The Project. It definitely was worth the wait for her to take the time and find the right producer in Kristian Bush to create The Project. He balances Ell’s musicality and together they have created a beautiful collection worthy of revisiting time and time again.