Jenna Guidry, “Back to Me” (Independent)

jenna-guidry-back-to-meJenna Guidry was 11 when she released “Cajun Angel,” her first song to make a local impression. At the time she already had a voice that sounded a good decade older, and a knack for saying something emotional (the song was about her late great-grandmother) without overdoing the sentiment. She also knew how to write chorus hooks that sound great on the radio (or at least on YouTube), something many older songwriters never learn.

Now a ripe old 18, Guidry’s released her first EP with producer Paul Sanchez and a handful of notable players (including drummer Eric Bolivar, Breton Sound guitarist Jonathan Pretus and Indigo Girls bassist Ben Williams) and the same strengths are there, just a lot more polished. Her voice has now matured into an appealing, languid drawl—comparisons to Kristin Diable and Shannon McNally wouldn’t be far off. And she’s still writing commercial songs with emotional substance; while all four songs here are about relationships on the rocks, none look at the affair from the same angle. The title song has the jauntiest tune but the most vulnerable lyric; “Precious” has an easy-rolling Dire Straits feel that undercuts its tough lyric (in which an ex-partner is assured that he’ll regret leaving). And “Call My Bluff,” done solo with piano, is a real heartbreaker: The singer is an older woman looking back at the love she never got over. Time will tell if Guidry’s higher-profile career will be recording her own songs or pitching to other artists, but it seems a good bet that she’ll have one.