There’s something so incredible about the connection of an artist to their work, and then the work’s fans to that artist. The announcement of the death of indelible singer-songwriter Cady Groves at the tender age of thirty this spring has left a large demographic of both pop/punk fans and country aficionados floored. I, myself, remember the days when she toured with punk banks and I requested her haircut at the salon. (College was a trip, and she has always been gorgeous.) Seeing her name in headlines in my social media feed made my heart stop, and I haven’t heard much of her more recent work. But the world has been celebrating her all along, and her fandom has been wrecked over the news.

Cady spent the last four years of her life writing and preparing new music in Nashville that both reflects her personal experiences, and makes her even more relatable than before. Her EP Bless My Heart was released at the end of May posthumously, and she couldn’t have hit the mark more if she tried.

With a little whimsy, she approaches the collection with the first track “Bartender,” a quirky, honest, beautiful ballad to the carefree nature of a full bar on a hot summer night. Perhaps the reality of political unrest and pandemic make this song feel that much more nostalgic, because we actually felt ourselves tearing up, listening to a song about drinking. The title track comes in quick to justify the tears, however, as Cady addresses personal anecdotes and makes us feel that even those who fall – hard – have the opportunity to be blessed in life. She rips any wounds wide open in this track, and this vulnerable side is going to be the thing we miss most.

“Camo” seems to have a title that is very stereotypical – and perhaps widely indicative – of its audience, but the metaphor prevails as a gorgeous reminder to make yourself seen. “Cigarettes and Sunsets” takes on a rhythm and pace that lure us into the thought that we might be about to watch 1996 blockbuster hit Phenomenon. (That is not an insult in the slightest. We imagine this track sounds like the perfect amalgamation of Clapton-style guitar and the Northern California cowboy demographic that surrounded the cast of Phenomenon during filming. But I digress.) Either way, the track belongs in a film. (Do you hear that, sync friends?!)

Last track “Crying Game” visits personal anecdotes, and reminds us a bit of earlier Cady Groves’ work sonically. The song specifically addresses the deaths of two of her brothers (Casey and Kelly), and the emotions that come along with their memories. It all feels like a way to round back to the beginning, as she takes her final, audible, bow.

To feel as though you have witnessed an entire career in just five songs seems a bit cheesy. But this release makes us feel closer to Cady than ever before.

Meredith Schneider