Encouragingly, Anna Ash, known for her arresting vocal prowess, has managed to fill out the Green Note tonight, which now seems to have returned to pre covid capacity. Her fourth album ‘Sleeper’ has gained strong reviews including at this very website. Hailing from Michigan but now an LA resident, she is a new name to this reviewer. She mentions how Spotify playlists have been helpful in bringing her work to a wider audience than she might otherwise regale.
The 15-song set is split, with the first half on electric guitar then a switch to acoustic. It’s the last gig on a hectic 12 day UK tour that has run concurrently with the period following the Queen’s passing and she, respectfully, shows her slight bemusement at the huge national significance this has taken on during her trip here. She plays a large sprinkling from the new album, peppered across the set. The songs are almost disarmingly brief, (is there a diminutive of “vignette” one wonders) but for someone who is towards the wordsmith end of the singer songwriter spectrum she uses the time concisely to voice what she intends. Most of the songs are personal scenarios, either about a relationship or about a particular personal encounter, or indeed both. With so many artists now being labelled in PR blurbs as multi genre, let’s say that Anna Ash could equally span several of the usual suspects, but she is fully within what AUK readers reasonably expect this website to embrace. There’s an Anais Mitchell type of musical palette that sits outside easy categorisation.
She’s happy to reveal her normality in her stage chat describing how to make ends meet she worked waitressing but then “got fired because they didn’t like me.” The title track from new album ‘Sleeper’ is pandemic-rooted which brought its own troubles as she was “waging war with whoever I see in the bathroom mirror”.
‘Seasonal’ allows her to quip on how the bleak Midwestern winter allows inhabitants to succumb to seasonal depression whereas in the warmer, constant California climate they have to drag their depression from within. Also with a geographical slant ‘Fire Season’ references the surging California forest fires and describes the emotional and domestic vulnerability of residents toying with upping sticks for greater safety. ‘What The Light Can Do’ is one of the more exploratory guitar pieces and sets out the trials of full adulthood, aiming to achieve all the standard material benchmarks whilst also being emotionally fulfilled…” furthermore, get your eternal bliss”. ‘The Daily News’ looks at the mundane inertia within a relationship that maybe has outlived its better days… “Always just one pay check from the end” whilst ‘Apologies’ comments on the mental games that men and women play on each other, “There’s no trophy for being easy and charming”. Candid enough to admit to end-of-tour fatigue, she ends the set barely 8 hours before her transatlantic flight is due to head west.
Support is from Dolly Mavies. She is a standout singer, Oxford based currently, with great vocal range, applied over simple yet strongly melodic guitar work. She voices in a similar vein and quality to Heather Nova which to these ears is a big plus. She has a confident articulate stage presence and plays a short set of mainly new songs ahead of an imminent new album.
‘Driving In Circles’ covers the vocal gamut to describe a marriage in the emotional defeat stage at divorce, whilst her second song ‘Forgive And Forget’ describes a relationship having its own fraught conflicts. She closes with a cover of ‘Because The Night’, stripped back neatly.
Was fortunate to see Anna play in Birmingham, unfortunately to a room of only 16, such a shame for such a wonderful talent but made the gig all the more intimate. Anna’s voice filled the room and singing her higher notes was a pleasure to behold. With such an ace album as Sleeper behind her I’m sure she’ll break through big time and the next time I get to see her will be to a packed audience.