BY LESLEY HASTINGS
Since relocating to Nashville to follow her country music fuelled dreams, Hannah Ellis has successfully carved her name as a both songwriter and artist. Racking up 42 million career streams, Hannah has written songs for many high profile artists and been featured as a vocalist on their recordings …. including fellow Kentucky native Carly Pearce, Russell Dickerson and Cassadee Pope. She has toured with the likes of Carly and Dwight Yoakam as well as being part of the prestigious “CMTNext Women of Country Tour”. Some of you may have caught her performing here in London at last year’s C2C Festival.
After a decade of paying her dues ( including releasing a self-funded EP) Hannah’s long-awaited and highly anticipated debut album “That Girl” is released via Curb Records this Friday, 12th January, and not surprisingly she has writing credits on all thirteen tracks. Having had a preview of the project, I can safely say that the wait will definitely be worth it, being more than an introduction to Hannah Ellis the artist ……. we learn a lot about who she is as a person along the way too as she draws on her personal journey and life experiences for writing inspiration.
Showcasing the variety she is capable of both vocally and lyrically, there are some really fun uptempo tracks which are as catchy as hell, none more so than album opener “Country Can” which celebrates the genre we all love and I’m sure will be a real crowd pleaser when performed live. Then there’s the album’s lead single “Wine Country“ (which made the top 50 at country radio stateside, congratulations Hannah!) ….. I’m trying to stick to “dry January” but watching the accompanying video I nearly gave in to temptation!
On the other end of the scale, there’s songs which demonstrate her deeper, reflective nature and showcase a different side to Hannah’s impressive vocal prowess. They include the stunning title track in which we hear her describe how she’s not someone who can hide her feelings, in fact she wears them “like a t-shirt” (a line which inspired an item of merchandise I noticed on her website!) and album closer, the self-analytical “Too Much and Not Enough” which highlights not only her own insecurities and vulnerabilities but a dilemma faced by many females I’m sure. Co-written with the wonderful Emily Weisband and Tofer Brown, this is one of my favourite tracks for several reasons, including Hannah’s emotionally charged vocal delivery and the arrangement which builds dramatically before the song (and album!) ends super-suddenly ….. it’s perfectly placed in the track order.
Relationships, in particular those which have gone awry, have inspired more than their fair share of the album’s tracks which will no doubt be very relatable to many. Hannah’s current single “Karma On The Rocks” is a fantastic girl-power write, with some particularly witty wordplay, which sees her ex getting a taste of his own medicine after being dumped by the girl he left her for. In the gorgeous piano led ballad “Somebody Else’s Heartbreak” (some beautiful strings in the mix here too) she curses the fact that she can’t take the advice she’d give to others in the wake of a breakup. “Still” warns against taking an ex back based on their good points, something I’m sure a lot of us have either done or been sorely tempted to do. Just remember “he’s still the same mess in a different box ….. still doesn’t deserve you, still knows how to hurt you”.
But it’s not all doom and gloom relationship-wise thankfully, and things are balanced out with some gorgeously crafted love songs which I’d like to assume were inspired by Hannah’s husband and fellow musician Nick Wayne whose name I incidentally noticed as co-writer on several tracks. The beautiful writes “Us” , “Plans” and “Somebody Else”, celebrate finding that certain someone at different stages of the relationship without being overly soppy, while the cheeky “Replaceable“ is a reminder to her partner that she’s one of a kind …. such a great idea for a write and brilliantly executed, with the song’s opening line inspiring another merch item! And “One Of These Days” sees Hannah and her partner looking forward to easier times (especially financially!) while still appreciating what they have right now ….. in fact in the future they’ll probably reminisce and yearn for the relative simplicity it offers.
One of my favourite tracks is a love song of a different type … celebrating Hannah’s shared love for both her current home and her Kentucky roots, ”Home and Hometown” …. ” No matter which one I’m leaving, I still want to turn around” she tells us in the anthemic chorus of this fantastic song which (as do several other tracks) features some great banjo playing. In case you hadn’t noticed yet I think the arrangements throughout the album are superb, by the way. As someone who favours albums firmly rooted in the traditional side of the country genre this generally more contemporary album still has enough to woo me.
Apologies, I have no details of the producer, musicians or all the writers involved, but congratulations to all. Yes, this is a very impressive debut album that showcases this rising artist’s multitude of talents perfectly.
Following an album release show in Nashville on 16th January, Hannah will once more be stepping into the hallowed circle at the Opry on 20th of the month and she’s also confirmed for the ever-popular Tortuga Music Festival in Florida. While there’s no UK dates in her calendar at the moment, March sees Hannah crossing the pond again to play C2C Berlin followed by shows in Cologne and Munich.
“That Girl” is available to pre-add, pre-save or pre-order HERE.
That Girl Track List:
1. “Country Can”
3. “That Girl”
4. “Wine Country”
5. “Someone Else’s Heartbreak”
6. “Karma on the Rocks”
9. “Somebody Else”
11. “Home and a Hometown”
12. “One of These Days”
13. “Too Much and Not Enough
For more artist details and all Hannah’s news check out her website and socials via these links