Black Music Matters Festival

Lindsay Ell

The Continuum Project – 2018 (Broken Bow)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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CDs by Lindsay Ell

"The Continuum Project" is Lindsay Ell's cover of, not a John Mayer song, but a full John Mayer album. As good as it is, though, one must wonder about the necessity.. With Ell working towards finding her niche in mainstream country, how would reimagining the work of a distinctly non-country artist's album (and not even attempting to make these songs sound country) help her cause?

Ell, who also recently collaborated with Keith Urban on the song "Horses" for his "Graffiti U" album, appears to be following a path like Urban's. She's bit of a guitar-slinger, like Urban, with a strong taste for pop and rock music. She sings similarly to Sheryl Crow, another artist oftentimes linked to country, but not ever fully in the country camp. Ell, as with Urban and Crow, will please those not really picky about how their country sound is defined.

Sugarland's Kristian Bush produced "The Continuum Project" as a kind of homework assignment for Ell. He challenged Ell to play all the instruments, record it in her home studio and finish it in two weeks. Stylistically, Ell's version of these Mayer's songs, are generally the same. In the case of "I'm Gonna Find Another You," Mayer's soulfully horn-accented plea is stripped down to just Ell and her electric guitar. Speaking of guitar, Ell displays her guitar chops with "Bold as Love," the Jimi Hendrix nugget. For "Gravity," Ell adds an organ part to the overall bluesy guitar vibe.

The biggest task for any emerging musical artist is to find one's own voice. With "The Continuum Project," though, Ell plays the role of an impressionist, which only proves she can imitate others well.