Album Review: Jordan Sellergren — ‘Sweet, Bitter Tears’

Jordan Sellergren, local songstress and woman about town [Ed. note: and Little Village art director], has a new record out, titled Sweet, Bitter Tears. And I’m fairly certain that it’s the album we all need right now.

It opens with “Get in the Woodshed,” which explores the idea of lacking time — or desire — to create. A full-time job, dishes, kids, life are all themes we can relate to. Lots of things get in the way of our creative processes, and this song captures that with a clarity that we all need right now: Take the time, do the thing.

It also helps that the song is wonderfully twangy and alive.

Sellergren’s voice is sweetly reminiscent of Amanda Shires or a softer Neko Case, and it lilts in a way that belies the tough subjects the record grapples with.

The record really speaks to the idea of cleaning out, moving on and examining ourselves in the world. “Luggage Full of Stones,” easily one of my favorite songs on the record, is a train song. The song itself chugs along like a train. Musically, it has some of my favorite moments on the record. This particular track is also a duet with Paul Cary, and it is a real highlight of the album. I am a sucker for a train song, and this track definitely moves the record forward.

The title track of the record, “Sweet Bitter Tears,” is a meditation on unpacking the shared dreams one has with a lover. Again, her voice, in all its melancholic glory, calls the listener to remember that it’s OK to mourn the things we have lost. This is the most traditional country song on the record, and her voice and the band really stand out.

Lyrically, “A Room of My Own” is my favorite track on the record, especially right now, in this uncertain moment in time. Sellergren really shines here, from the opening line: “Give me a clean house first thing in the morning, and unbroken solitude so I can get in my head” all the way to the chorus: “My free time is extra guarded because I don’t have long / Must be nice to disregard it and drag my time along / But every time I need a moment that I could be withdrawn / You see, that’s like havin’ a room of my own.”

It’s just such a great track, and Randall Davis’ pedal steel really shines, as does Sellergren’s voice, which is more forceful here than anywhere else on the record. It’s a rallying cry for anyone who has been experiencing a lot of togetherness. It makes you want to belt out the song, and I admit, I do it every time I listen.

Sweet, Bitter Tears evokes dark bars, late night drives and listening alone, in your kitchen with your beverage of choice. It’s a torch and twang exploration of what a woman might need to get through some shit. I feel like it’s a deeply personal record for Sellergren, while having universal appeal to those of us longing to get over our issues, carve out some space and remind ourselves that we can bloom and fly.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 282.

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