This is the last gig of her current tour and Ashley McBryde proves beyond any doubt that she is an artist of real substance. Not that the jury was really out over the question in the first place, as hers is a hard-won experience and wisdom, forged over many years of trying to ‘make it’ in an industry that treats emerging Female artists with a mixture of disinterest and/or dismissal, at the best of times…
Nashville can chew you up and this talent has survived because her insights and inspiration have endured, along with her ability to push through and introduce her abundant talents to wider audiences, not only in America, but increasingly across Europe.
Tonight, she plays a set that dips into her past writings as well as heavily featuring the ‘breakout’ release from last year – Girl Going Nowhere. It is a long overdue success and Ashley is well equipped to handle the onrush of fame after so many years toughening up her resolve. Her onstage presence is easy and relaxed and she tells great stories between songs that help make the capacity crowd feel right in the middle of her focus. She also speaks about her love of Irish audiences and the way she feels when her songs are sung back to her…
Playing most of her recent release and spread throughout the impressive set, we are given rousing versions of Girl Going Nowhere, Radioland, American Scandal, The Jacket, Livin' Next to Leroy, A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega, El Dorado, Tired of Being Happy and Home Sweet Highway.
Tracks from a previous release, Jalopies & Expensive Guitars (2016), feature also and the enduring strength of songs like Lookin’ For A Buzz, Bible & a .44, Fat & Famous are self-evident as the capacity crowd hang on every word and sing every chorus. Her writing is very impressive and her ability to reflect on the pulse of things that are going on in relationship challenges and the way we process our disappointments and pain give her quite an edge over her counterparts in Country music at present.
She sings a Brooks & Dunn song, You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone and tries out her new single, One Night Standards, on an appreciative audience who give such a strong reaction that she is lost for words – temporarily. This is a girl on a mission and she reveals a gentle and kind nature underneath all her no bullshit, watch your back attitude to life and in playing her music.
She introduces a couple of new songs, Ain’t Enough Water In The River (To Wash Me Clean) and First Thing I Reach For Is The Last Thing I Need – great titles, if I have them right? Again, the stand-out impression is one of just how strong the writing is and points to a consistency that will ensure that she can continue on the path she has forged for some time to come.
After taking a solo slot of 2 songs, including a very moving rendition of her tribute to her father, Bible & a .44, the title track of her Girl Going Nowhere release and the delayed re-appearance of her excellent band, is greeted with a huge response and prolonged applause.
The encore had 2 songs, Rattlesnake Preacher and a great version of Dirty Diana, a cover of the Michael Jackson song. It may be a strange note to finish on, but it highlights the terrific chops of her road band, who really know how to ramp everything up to a crashing finale.
Here is one sassy lady who takes no prisoners and who exudes a confidence that equals her talents. I am reminded of Bonnie Raitt in her attitude and strut. A top player, songstress and a new voice that is steering country music into a direction that can only be positive for the future generations that want to enjoy quality music. One of the gigs of the year!
Review and photos by Paul McGee