Yesterday, for the first time ever, I heard an Ashley McBryde song on local country radio. I had waited patiently for this new album, since her 2016 independent EP, and hearing her on the radio was a moment of excitement; the world is now taking notice of this talent. While I don’t consider radio play to be the end-all for artistic accomplishment, it sure is nice to know someone you appreciate is finally getting recognized for their years of grinding.
Late last month Ashley released her long awaited major label debut, ‘Girl Going Nowhere’ to rave reviews and much fanfare. Her 2016 EP ‘Jalopies and Expensive Guitars’ had an unmistakable attitude to it, but there was also a hint of pushing too hard. Everything good about that EP transfers well to this more personal major label debut; ‘Girl Going Nowhere’ is heavy with depth and light on fluff, Ashley has a way of speaking to the life of the every-person in a realistic manor, not overly glorifying nor simplifying the battle.
Here’s what is exciting about Ashley McBryde: She has a great voice, an ability to tell a tale in a way we can all get behind, and is doing it just different enough to make her accent challenging. While that surely made the last decade a grind, it has to make what she is experiencing right now that much more meaningful. There’s something so relatable to her, she pulls from many different musical styles and talks about subjects we can all feel connected to, but does it in a way that doesn’t feel stale or contrived.
Since the album has been out for a couple weeks I’m going to bend one of my own rules and break it down song by song. There is so much to love on this album that I’d hate to blow right over anything.
-“Girl Going Nowhere” is the fitting name for the album and the opening track, it exemplifies Ashley’s career, and does so with her trademark style and perspective. This song is also a great filter to put on your own life; you do you, don’t listen to the unwashed masses and what they might have to say about your dreams.
-“Radioland” and “American Scandal” are two of the most radio friendly on the album. “Radioland” is actually quite relatable if you remember the time before MP3s and the internet. “American Scandal” struck me as both real-time and reminiscent; discussing a time when nothing else mattered, and the youthful exuberance of living in the moment.
-“Southern Babylon” drips with bluesy vibes and dark sentiment. I find my shoulders swaying slowly to and fro to the light accompaniment and strong emotional vocals from Ms. McBryde. This one really allows her to showcase her voice and additional influences.
-“The Jacket” is a song in the tradition of classics like “This Cowboy’s Hat”, a proper homage to the sentimental passing of the torch that comes with any cherished hand-me-down. It’s a father-daughter love song wrapper in weathered denim.
-“Livin’ Next To Leroy” has a great rock sound with heavy guitars and plenty of attitude, but it’s dark. I live in an area, like many rural American towns, that has plenty of drug issues; this song is more real than most would believe. Even with its sometimes too-upbeat-for-the-lyrics sound, it still lands for me, probably because we get the impression she somehow made it out of there.
-“A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega” is the one that put her on the map; it toes the line of desperation and fate, urging us to make the most out of everything. The emotional lyrics are pointed and based on a real love story, but feel more like a love song written to life rather than a partner.
-“Andy (I Can’t Live Without You)” – This is the traditional love song on the album and my personal favorite. I can relate to this like few songs I've recently heard; I can also say with 100% certainty that I am Andy, bringing to life near every one of the annoyances she discusses. At the end of the day I can only hope I bring enough to the table to offset all my thorns.
-“El Dorado” is the road-warrior anthem, with a pace that makes you want to put the top down and drop the hammer. The guitar solo is a great departure that goes well with the song, and keeps the blood pumping between two love songs.
-“Tired Of Being Happy” – Wistfulness abound, this one cements the bad-girl vibe with lyrics like “I’ve never wrecked a home, but don’t put it past me”. The cheating song is a country staple, as is the nostalgic ex, and this one wraps them up in a very nice “Just in-case” option.
-“Home Sweet Highway” – This is a great album bookend; with a hint of Eric Church feel, Ashley is afforded the opportunity to showcase her vocals over all else, while expressing her traveling troubadour lifestyle. It tells us how she got here and where we can find her.
Learn more about Ashley McBryde on her website or Facebook