Long before the 26-year-old star moved nearly 4,000 miles from her hometown of Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada to make a name for herself in Nashville, she determined that empathy was a critical element to her artistry. Take “Home Now,” a song Townes released in 2009 at the age of 15 that tells the heartbreaking story of a young girl writing letters to her father, a solider serving overseas who is killed in combat. While her sound has evolved over the past decade, her innate ability to weave compassion and insight into her work has only grown more compelling.
Townes exemplifies this on the dozen songs that comprise her poignant debut. She demonstrates a sense of maturity in the album’s opener, “Holding Out For the One,” an anthemic number where she refuses to settle in her search for true love. “I ain’t giving my heart to just anyone, I’m holding out for the one,” she proclaims. Meanwhile, “Where You Are” casts her as a travelling soul, one who’s traversed past the northern lights and through dark forests, endlessly searching for the person she’s destined to be with. She gets particularly philosophical on “Jersey on the Wall (I’m Just Asking),” bravely putting forth the challenging questions that only a higher power can answer, ranging from pondering what makes the world turn to why a car can’t stop from crashing. Townes was inspired to write the song when she visited a high school in her native Canada after a student tragically passed away in a car accident, Townes’ soul stirred upon seeing the student’s basketball jersey hanging on the wall of the gymnasium. Though she’s adamant about getting answers to these profound questions one day, Townes exudes grace and patience as she gently pleads, “forgive me, I’m just asking.”
We see her claim independence on the feisty “White Horse” where she abandons the stereotypical notion of a lover riding straight out of a fairy tale and into reality to save her, instead discovering that love reveals itself in various forms. “I was looking for roses, but how would I know that love’s a little closer to a wildflower?” she prophesizes. What follows is the plaintive “I Kept the Roses,” one of the album’s crowning jewels. The soft, doo-wop melody that sounds like it was plucked from a vintage jukebox matches the nostalgia in the singer’s voice as she reflects on a love that, though destined to fade, was bright and vibrant in its prime, Townes keeping a symbol of their connection alive in a vase by her bedside.
After promising to be one’s “Lighthouse” and encouraging us to “Come As You Are,” Townes circles back to a contemplative space with the lullaby-like “When I Meet My Maker.” Here, she uses potent lyrics to convey her vision of heaven, one filled with beauty that ranges from reuniting with loved ones to walking in between the stars and gaining a pair of angel wings that enable her to soar above the stratosphere, accompanied by a peaceful melody of a plucking guitar and soft strings.
Townes showcases her true power as a songwriter with the empathetic “Somebody’s Daughter,” the breakthrough single that established her as one of Nashville’s wise young talents in 2018. The song expresses understanding and compassion through Townes’ narrative about a young woman she saw on the side of the road who was homeless. Townes looks beyond her situation to find this woman’s identity, considering who she was growing up going to school dances with her peers and counting change at the lemonade stand, dreaming of future ambitions. Townes brings the project to a striking close with “The Most Beautiful Things,” painting a gorgeous picture of the universe with lyrics that depict the sun crashing into the ocean and a star shooting out of the night sky, leading her to profess “maybe the most beautiful things in this life are felt and never seen.” Townes creates the type of song that resonates in one’s soul, with lyrics like “the only way I know any of this might even be true, is the love I feel for you” serving as pure poetry, while the voice of sound engineer Jason Hall’s seven-year-old daughter Amelia reprising the words “dream, cry, kiss, dream” elevates the song’s impact.
With The Lemonade Stand, Townes proves she has the potential to become a prolific storyteller. With a curious and probing spirit, Townes infuses a distinct sense of wonderment into the stunning album that reflects her equally beautiful soul.