Review: Ashley McBryde -- Girl Goin' Nowhere

Monday, 09 April 2018 04:19 PM Written by 

 

ashley mcbryde cover

Arkansas native Ashley McBryde, a powerful singer-songwriter, has a voice dripping with unabashed twang, not unlike the young Reba McEntire. Over the past decade as she worked to gain wider exposure she recorded one album (2011's Elsebound) and two years ago, the EP Jalopies & Expensive Guitars. Her promise finally gained attention when Eric Church heard her and began bringing her onstage at concerts. It's not surprise, since Church is one of Nashville's smartest and most astute musical voices.

Girl Goin' Nowhere is an absolutely stunning journey through the musical musings of a talent able to create songs of jaw-dropping clarity, loaded with heart, empathy and grit. The title song captures the emotions of a woman embarking on a musical career, braving the skepticism, disbelief and small town jealousy of her peers to achieve what she intended. It's simple, eloquent and profoundly moving.

The plea of "American Scandal," a love song filled with longing and desire, has an undercurrent of flippancy apparent in the line "Love me like Kennedy and Monroe" (as in JFK and Marilyn).

"Southern Babylon" adds elements of jazz to a composition about dark, almost film noir situation of a performer with car trouble, stuck in unsettling surroundings. The moody arrangement, complete with vibraphone, is totally appropriate. I've had occasional issues with the work of producer Jay Joyce with other artists (though not his outstanding efforts with Eric Church), but this is utter perfection from the first to the final note, framing her vocal flawlessly. The expressive, vivid imagery of "The jacket," the story of a father's worn, ancient denim jacket and a daughter's love, is a drama in miniature, a marvel to behold.

The album's first single " A Little Dive Bar in Dahlongea" summarizes McBryde's compositional genius by capturing a relationship and location with sharp observational flair that renders Loretta Lynn's and Dolly Parton's compositions so timeless. The minor domestic conflicts that make up "Andy (I can't live without you)" bring together love, frustration, irritation and passion in one beautifully packaged ballad.

The musicians' road trip chronicled in "El Dorado" roars with energy and spirit, the arrangement hand in glove with the sharp, focused lyrics."Tired Of Being Happy" is the kind of song Miranda Lambert excels with, the tale of a woman who loses her man to another woman, more his type, relying on her world-weary sense of her own faults. Her performance of the love song "Home Sweet Highway," is rendered with gospel-style fervor.

McBryde has a debut here that is beyond stunning. She stakes her claim with music filled with raw emotion, vivid Southern iconography, smart lyrics and a sound that defies the usual hooks. Taken together, her street smarts, vulnerability and creative vision make it easy to see what Church and others see in her blend of voice and composition. It's easily one of the most remarkable debuts of 2018, revealing an artist of irresistible power.

 

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