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Jessica Andrews

Heart Shaped World – 1999 (DreamWorks Nashville)

Reviewed by Eli Messinger

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CDs by Jessica Andrews

Early stardom is a tightrope walk between preternatural maturity and treacly teenagerisms. Few adolescents have the perspective to really illuminate new corners of the human condition, instead finding themselves somewhere between unexperienced adult emotions and simple dramas of not-quite-adulthood.

Andrews navigates this by an unusually mature delivery. She doesn't provide startling revelations about life, yet, despite the undistinguished, radio-friendly production, she finds a distinct voice. There's a spark of artistry, raising even this early work above the similarly-aged boy-bubblegum climbing the pop charts. Andrews sings with a more ageless style, mixing the girlishness of Dolly Parton with the Delta blues of Bobbie Gentry. Her songs were picked with a lighter hand, focusing less on personal experiences and more on sentiments she could imagine and act out. Bluesy numbers like "Hungry Love" and "Ruby Shoes" are well sung, but ring a bit hollow from the mouth of a 15-year-old.

Andrews has skipped a few squares, singing at an emotional level at odds with her actual age. And though this formula has worked before (notably for LeAnn Rimes), one hopes her life experience will catch up with her talent.