In recent years, the U.K. has arguably proved superior in producing female powerhouse crooners with fresh means of dominating the billboard charts such as Adele, Duffy and, of course, the illustrious Amy Winehouse.
Stateside, America has put forth a worthy effort of its own, delving into this soulful singer/songwriter genre with the emergence of artists like Rachael Yamagata and Alison Sudol from A Fine Frenzy. Still, none have come close to the global success of their British counterparts.
The game might change, though, with the arrival of a serious contender on the scene: Tennessee native Lauren Pritchard.
At the ripe age of 23, Pritchard sings with the eloquent soul of someone who has lived to see it all, and done it all as well.
Her debut album, Wasted in Jackson, is comprised of 11 short tracks that give a glimpse of her deepest desires, innermost secrets and painful past relationships.
Although the lyrics are not groundbreaking, Pritchard injects a tenacious quality into every word she sings, taking these would-be formulaic songs into a fresh and empowering realm.
The titular and standout track of the album, “Wasted in Jackson,” is a brutally honest insight into wanting to leave a deadbeat town. Pritchard sings, All I hear is stick around / Everybody gets wasted in Jackson / I don’t wanna waste in Jackson. The combination of her stirring and powerful vocals laid over the poppy melody of the album uplifts the somber premise of the song.
Pritchard cites legendary crooners like Al Green and Carole King as some of the influences behind her style. Indeed, her expansive musical tastes of soul, jazz, R&B and blues are vividly reflected through her own work. Incorporating catchy jazz piano riffs and a string ensemble, her quirky love song “Stuck,” the second single off her album, plays like a modern take on Green’s “Let’s Stay Together.”
Listeners can expect a whole spectrum of emotionally charged and sing-a-long worthy tracks from the punchy “Not The Drinking,” which deals with the end of a relationship, to the more upbeat and light-hearted “I Hope It’s You.”
Besides detailing relationships gone awry and situations beyond her control, Pritchard delves into more deeply-rooted issues in the track “Painkillers,” which, as the name suggests, explores the darkest moments of a person’s struggles with the most legalized drugs on the market.
But I know no painkillers make it go away / I tried it once before and it didn’t work for me / work and there’s no painkillers make it go away / if I tried to overdose / it would bring no change, Pritchard cries, lending the song a mournful resonance.
After leaving her home at a very young age, the road to Pritchard’s musical career has neither been the easiest nor the most conventional. While her peers were still attending high school, Pritchard was picking up odd jobs to fund her passion, including singing vocals for a reggae band and auditioning for roles in the musical theater circuit.
Most notable for playing the role of the teenage runaway Ilse in the coming-of-age hit musical Spring Awakening, Pritchard might have easily pursued a successful Broadway career or tried her hand at an acting job in Hollywood like ex-cast mates Lea Michele, Jenna Ushkowitz and Jonathan Groff, all of whom have joined the cast of Glee.
Instead, after a two-year run on Broadway, Pritchard has reclaimed her original dream of becoming a bona-fide musician.
Although her vibrato might be similar to some of today’s most soulful vocalists, including Adele and perhaps even Sia, Pritchard’s aesthetic is more a throwback to the 1990s golden era of female singer/songwriters. Her penchant for emotionally stripped yet unapologetic tracks comes off as a generous ode to some of the great lyricists of that era, from Fiona Apple to Alanis Morissette.
Pritchard’s talent is undeniable, and her debut album showcases more than just a pretty girl who can sing. It is a no-holds-barred and unreformed introduction to rival that of any competition from across the pond.