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First Play: Jessica Mitchell, Heart of Glass

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Andrea Warner

If the co-credits on her debut studio album are any indication, Jessica Mitchell’s most famous and prolific peers have pegged the singer-songwriter as country music’s next big star.

CBC Music is streaming the First Play of Mitchell’s record, Heart of Glass, in the CBC Music player a week ahead of its release. You can pre-order Heart of Glass here.

As the tracklist hints, this is a record rich in heartbreak, grief and goodbyes. It’s the stuff of vintage country, of course, but Mitchell, who is based in Toronto, ensures that her characters are realists not fatalists. They are lamenting loss, processing its place in their lives and their relationships to it, but they’re not subsumed by it. Heart of Glass is filled with co-writing credits like Blake Bollinger (Justin Aldean, Darius Rucker), Deric Ruttan (Eric Church, Dierks Bentley) and Victoria Banks (Sara Evans, Johnny Reid), but Mitchell, who is a co-writer on every song and a co-producer on several, is the throughline that keeps the album cohesive and contemporary.

Mitchell’s voice is a gale-force wind, hugging the listener from all sides until they are swallowed whole. The songs are polished and produced with soaring choruses and radio-ready future hits, but there’s also something very real and relatable at their core. The raucous women-penned anthem “Tear It Down” sounds like a warning to the gatekeepers of bro country, and the future favourite “That Record Saved My Life” is a great ode to vinyl that positions Mitchell’s character as a record collector whose catharsis comes through her 45s.

Since record collecting is still, even in 2018, so often gendered as male — it’s not, of course, but record collecting as the domain of men is a pervasive myth — Mitchell’s rejection of and interruption of that trope is important. “That Record Saved My Life” will have a role in erasing those misconceptions and it’s kind of thrilling to see this next generation re-shaping tired narratives.

But it’s track four, “Don’t Love Me,” that is perhaps closest to instant-classic status. It’s easy to imagine musicians scrambling to cover this track, slow and aching with an impossibly compelling melody. With Heart of Glass, Mitchell has managed to craft a debut that lives up to the hype she’s steadily and deservedly accumulated over the last decade.

Pre-order Heart of Glass now.

Hang out with me on Twitter: @_AndreaWarner


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