Lauren Pritchard’s story so far is one of right place, right time. The Tennessee-born singer was a dropout from a mildly successful band before being sheltered in LA by Lisa Marie Presley, of all people – doubtless strumming a guitar and singing a Johnny Cash song. Now a UK resident, contacts seem to have favoured the on-the-brink-of-something-big singer, with Eg White, the man behind the certified 2008 stars Adele and Duffy, producing the 22-year-old’s debut album, Wasted In Jackson.
But it’d be petty to hold songwriter assistance and good fortune against the youthful soul-harbourer. Her first album is remarkably accomplished, defined by a bitter, been-through-it take on storytelling that highlights a woman who’s far too cynical for her age. Her experience seeps through in the form of the occasional rough-edged lyric (“It’s not the drinking, it’s not the drugs”) and the hard-lined attitude toward a failed relationship.
The album’s highlights come in the form of the dark and groggy title track, the already established Painkillers and the genuinely breathtaking Going Home. In the latter, Pritchard gives the sense of being entirely at her own ease, instead of being surrounded by dozens of producers twiddling knobs and barking instructions. Much of White’s work gives the impression of something so pristine that it’s untouchable, but Pritchard evades this entirely. Let’s call Going Home her Hometown Glory – the standout track that raises hairs on the back of your neck. And what’s most staggering is that it sounds earnest; when she calls “Where do I go, if I’m not going home?”, you feel her isolation creeping up on you.
References to the strumming street life pop up a little too often: Try A Little Harder’s opening line (“Can you spare some change?”) reaches the breaking point just before the album’s close. But in a way, the album can be seen as being demonstrative of Pritchard’s gradual decline whilst being on her own, counting her hard-to-recall relationships on two hands; wondering when she’d get a break.
She did, as you know, get quite a break. And you’d have been forgiven for expecting Wasted In Jackson to fall into a certain category; perfectly produced, full to the brim with vacuous but sellable songs and certifying its artist as something for the future. But Pritchard is a revelation, and someone of real songwriting talent, not just a mere lucky soul who got picked up on the streets by Presley and told that she had the looks and just needed to supply the talent. This is a pop star who knows her roots and knows where they may take her.