Kelsea Ballerini – The First Time review: ‘sounds like early Taylor Swift’

David Smyth
Lively: Kelsea Ballerini sounds like Taylor Swift did three albums ago: Christopher Polk/Getty

Just in time for the C2C: Country to Country festival at the O2, this 23-year-old Tennessee singer-songwriter is making a belated push for UK success.

This debut album, newly released here, is now almost two years old and a gold-seller back home.

She can be introduced to us as a Best New Artist Grammy nominee who has duetted with Taylor Swift, and she sounds like Swift three albums ago.

Banjo dominates the lively opener, XO, and her polished voice details a date in the back of a pick-up truck on Looking at Stars. But this is country with a small c, with strong melodies that should appeal across genres.

The standout, Peter Pan, is close to a straight rock song and gives impressive depth to outweigh her occasional fluffiness.