That sound you hear is Chris Lane getting run out of Nashville on a rail, because we’ve found someone to replace him.
Ingrid Andress is a Colorado native whose road to Nashville included two seasons on The Sing-Off as a member of an acapella group, a degree from the Berklee College of Music, and a 2016 Grand Prize victory in the “Unsigned Only Music Competition.” Credentials like these usually mean you’re not unsigned for long, and Andress eventually teamed up with Warner Music midway through 2018. However, country music’s allergy to female artists reared its head quickly, and Andress’s debut single “Ladylike” made absolutely no impact when it dropped earlier this year. Now, Andress has returned with her follow-up single “More Hearts Than Mine,” and honestly, country radio would be doing itself a disservice by not giving her a chance to shine. At its core, the song is a Rule 63 version of Chris Lane and Tori Kelly’s “Take Back Home Girl,” but unlike that abomination, this song has some actual texture, and emotion, and interesting details, and…you know what, it’s an upgrade on every level, and deserves a moment of your time.
While this song is the kind of slower ballad that’s easy to overthink and overproduce, the production here does a nice job establishing a warm, heartfelt atmosphere around the song without getting in the way of the lyrics. The arrangement is kept small and sensible: A piano borrowed from Chris Janson’s “Drunk Girl” to convey depth and seriousness while carrying the melody, a ton of steel guitar to give the mix some real richness and texture, some low-end electric guitar and dobro in the background to help give the song some foundation, and a restrained percussion line that’s just audible enough to keep the peace. The result is a spacious, inviting sound that draws the listener into its embrace and allows them to calmly reflect on the lyrics as the song moves along. The mix also does a nice job building up momentum as it goes along, while also creating just enough energy to keep the song from bogging down and never forgetting to keep the most important instrument (Andress’s voice) front and center. It’s the sort of sound that’ll sweep you away if you let it, and after banging my head against a wall of “meh” for the past few weeks, I’m more than hapy to let it sweep away.
If you took Maren Morris’s voice and sanded down the edges slightly, you’d end up with Andress, although the latter seems to have a bit more charisma present in her delivery (of course, that might be because Morris insists on foisting songs like “80s Mercedes” and “Rich” upon the world). It’s hard to get a read on Andress’s range from this song: She cuts some of the lower notes short and her voice gets a little breathy at times, but the song doesn’t really test her at any point (as usual, a slower song like this doesn’t push her flow either). What’s more impressive is the emotion she’s able to put behind the lyrics, owning the narrator’s role and taking the audience along to meet her imagined family and hometown. Where Lane came across as sleazy and uncomfortable, Andress projects confidence and emotion, and even though she focuses more on how other people might feel about her significant other than on her own feelings, she leaves no doubt in the listener’s mind about her love for his partner. It’s an impressive performance, and one that deserves some time and space on the airwaves.
Lyrically, the narrator takes their partner on a virtual tour of their hometown, laying out both the logistics and the friend/familial dynamics they might encounter when they’re there for real. I really like both the level and the choice of detail here, from the separate bedrooms to the church dress code to the standard fatherly bonding activities (seriously, every dad in America seems to live by the creed “There’s no such thing as owning too many tire pressure gauges”). The corresponding lack of objectification and sexual references give the story more weight as well: This is a long-term relationship (it’s been in place at least “for six months now”) where deeper family and historical ties are pertinent topics of discussion. While not explicitly courting nostalgia, this song weaponizes it better than tracks that actually try to do so: I’m finding that country songs speak to me less and less as time goes on (perhaps because they focus on experiences I didn’t have or am too old to revisit), but this one really resonated with me, and brought back visions of the people and places I knew long ago. In doing so, it enhances the power of the hook, connecting faces and places to the “more hearts than mine” line. In short, the writing is deep, descriptive, and probably the most moving thing I’ve heard in about two months.
“More Hearts Than Mine” is a very strong argument for making room for Ingrid Andress in country music. With warm, atmospheric production, evocative writing, and an earnest performance from Andress herself, this is a welcome respite from the sea of blandness the genre is floating in right now. Country radio’s hostile attitude towards female artists actually seems to be hardening right now by the looks of recent Pulse posts, but with several talented women like Andress waiting in the wings, radio really needs to reconsider its position and give these artists the spotlight they deserve.
Rating: 8/10. You’ll want to hear this.