Jordyn Shellhart - Primrose
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Primrose (Warner Nashville, 2023)

Jordyn Shellhart

Reviewed by Kevin Oliver

A published songwriter by age 16, Wyoming native Jordyn Shellhart's debut album comes nearly ten years later, after earning cuts by Little Big Town, Kelsea Ballerini, Cody Johnson, and Don Williams. That experience explains the poise with which she delivers the goods here, whether it is the insistent, questioning mid-tempo ballad "Who Are You Mad At?" or the playfully wistful "Joni," where she opines "I don't think Joni Mitchell would like any of my songs."

Even that knowledge may not prepare a listener for the impact of "Maybe Someday You'll Have a Daughter," where the song's narrator directly addresses their rapist with the ultimate "what if" scenario. Blunt and unapologetic, it's an attitude that could describe Shellhart as a whole; her style is part sass, part vulnerability and occasionally profane. She uses different perspectives to turn classic tropes on their head, such as "Steal A Man," where she sings "A man is not a car radio, no one can steal a man."

The closing "Near Death Experience" tackles abortion from the other end of the spectrum, a narrator who was almost terminated. "I had a near death experience, before I was born." No matter your position politically, it's difficult to hear and not empathize with.

Shellhart has the pixie-like good looks to be marketed for her image, but those formative years as a writer gave her a foundation which means she demands to be evaluated more for the content of her lyrics. "The pillow in my bed is taking some punches, the shoulders of my friends have caught a few tears," she sings in "Irrelevant," atop an insistent drumbeat that yields only to the titular chorus. Again, it's that knack for details and the ability to make visual word pictures without the same old cliches that makes this an impressive debut – and despite her protestations, Joni Mitchell would even find some things to like about Jordyn Shellhart's songs.

CDs by Jordyn Shellhart

Primrose, 2023

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