For her second album of original material, Lindsay Ell, a rising country music singer-songwriter with serious guitar chops, was writing about the aftermath of a tough year that she’d experienced. She had suffered a health scare, had broken up with her boyfriend, and was dealing with the trauma of two sexual assaults, one that happened when she was 13 years old. As she was writing, she realized she was processing her trauma and loss much along the lines of the seven stages of grief. She decided to structure the whole album around those stages.
Ell’s music tends to be upbeat and catchy, matching the country/pop groove of much of the music coming out of Nashville. What sets Ell apart, though, is her guitar playing, her singing, and her knack for melody and for letting us into her heart. The album opens with “Hits Me,” referencing how, out of the blue, the sadness that she’s carrying can come to mind. She continues to work through her issues, noting that she’s finally getting to “the other side of lonely” and, in the final song, sings that she is “ready to love again.”
While going through all seven stages in 40 minutes can seem trite, the ending smacks of reality. The dark songs are still there. They are still part of who Ell is, but she finds herself able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Heart Theory takes us through grief and trauma and lets us see that there is hope. Ell lets us see that all these emotions—joy and sorrow—are part of her journey and make up who she is today. (Stoney Creek Records)