Ashley Harding “Spoon Music”

Independent, 2023

Accomplished debut from Welsh story-telling trailblazer.

Debut albums are always fascinating beasts – inevitably an abundance of songs to choose from, the challenge of constructing the right song order, and the hope that the album resonates with listeners. Welshman Harding, who now resides in rural Cornwall, has succeeded on all fronts and more with this truly accomplished release. You’d be pushed to know it was his first on listening to it.

The musicianship throughout this set is astonishingly good – Harding is joined by Daniel W Sinclair on keys, Brinley Hall on drums, backing vocals and production and Bradley Harper on pedal steel.

Choosing to open with ‘Got What’s Mine’ is inspired – it’s a wonderful track that builds after a quiet acoustic opening. Harding’s voice is superb here and throughout and the song apparently developed from a few ideas over a couple of years and the last half of the song is instrumental, with some gorgeous 12-string guitar work from Hall. It’s a mighty beast of a song and the perfect opener.

We then have a couple of pedal steel ‘classic country’ songs in ‘Once Again’ and ‘I Wouldn’t Mind (If It Wasn’t With You)’ – both highly effective and full of passion. ‘Roll In, Roll Out’ is a bluesy shuffle and a classic ode to a loved one. ‘Keep It Under Your Hat’ is a catchy number – reminiscent of John Prine at his best.

Lovely piano tinkling highlights ‘Midnight Friend’; there’s a lovely instrumental ‘South West Waltz’ and closer ‘For Tonight’ was apparently written with no writing implements on an hour-long car journey. It’s another classy laid-back tune – again a perfect choice to close the album.

This is a wonderful mix of country, roots and Americana with storytelling at its heart. It’s apparent that there’s so much love, effort and soul that’s been put into this release and the band ought to be really proud of their achievements. These are songs which cry out to be seen performed live.


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