Ash Gray “Chicken Wire” (Labelship Records, 2018)

Here is the second album from Ash Gray from  Austin, TX, now based in Sheffield, Yorkshire, the land of his forefathers. All the tracks here are written and produced by Gray himself. The title track demonstrates well how Gray orchestrates and startles with his music. This is a song, that under the influence of the pedal steel (James Shelton from Austin, Texas) and the saw (Jeff Johnston, also from Austin) is able to convince you, (with the rhyme of “cold desire” with the idea of “the fear of pain like a cat on fire / Caught in the chicken wire!”) how uneasy life and love can be. Listen to the song and the conundrum will become more clear. “Yeah! Caught in the chicken wire!” What an original, stark and compelling image.

And that is how the album works, leaving a lasting impression, bringing magic to the simplest of songs. ‘Golden Road,’ for instance, implores you to “sing only of the open road.” The dobro backing and the voices of The Goat Ropers entrap you entirely. “Na na na…” ‘Sundown’ as well, is an imploring song. “The ship and the sails and the wind” carry the narrative, and the full arrangement with a group of players purely enjoying themselves moves the album onwards.

Find your own moments in this album. Check out the violin (Ric Booth) at the end of ‘Life’s Pounding Adventure,’ or the reference to “Cathanger Hill” in ‘Josephine Clark.’ Listen to the internal crescendos in ‘When The Devil Comes Home,’ or the single worded ‘Firefly’ with its references to Love as a “burning thing.” Here then is outstanding Americana, engineered in Sheffield, and written and produced by a singer of note.

8/10

Summary

Ash Gray is here to stay!

Author: Dave Clarke

I have always loved Americana music, even before it had a name. I've been a teacher (secondary and tertiary) all my professional life.

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