Miss Tess “The Moon Is An Ashtray” (Tone Tree Music, 2020)

It’s hard to believe that the 12 tracks on ‘The Moon Is An Ashtray’ clock in at less than 40 minutes. The songs bring together all of the best elements of more than three decades of American music. From 50s ballads that bring Kittie Wells and Patsy Cline to mind to songs that breathe new life into the best of the 70s Nashville Sound—it’s all in there. It gives the album the expansive scope of an epic journey. But perhaps the most impressive and enjoyable things about the album are that it makes it all seem effortless. Every song feels both fresh and familiar.

Miss Tess has put together a tour of the American musical landscape that should make folks like Ry Cooder, Booker T., and Elvis Costello tip their hats. The devil is definitely in the details and the songs on this album get the details right.

Songs like the title track, ‘The Truth Is’, and ‘Riverboat Song’ show off her abilities as a country crooner. They aren’t paint-by-numbers imitations. They transport the listener. ‘True Flood’ is a Stax-Esque strut that features Rachael Price from Lake Street Dive. ‘Sugarbabe’ is a nod to Mississippi Hill Country Blues that doesn’t get done this well very often.

‘Gamblin Man’ is a chugging blues number and ‘Take It Easy’ is a raucous stomp. ‘I Wanna Be A Cowboy’ features slappy doghouse bass and yodeling that resurrect Hank Sr., Jimmie Rodgers, and Gene Autrey. ‘One Little Kiss’, ‘These Blues’, and ‘Human Being’ are numbers that the A-team would be proud to call their own.

There are rolling keys and soaring Hammond organ with plenty of Les Paul inspired leads, twangy telecaster, and pedal steel in the mix. It’s hard to say whether this album shoots for -or springs from- that spot where country, jazz, and rock ‘n’ roll get tangled up in the ball of roots that form the base of everything good in American music. In the end, none of that matters—just listen and enjoy!

Epic in scope with effortless execution. Really, really good.
9/10

Author: Steven Rafferty

Writer, Musician, Political Junkie, Oilfield Hand in Recovery . . .

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