Live Review: 1st Annual Local CountryFest

Ashley Jordan

Ashley Jordan; photo by Geoff Wilbur

1st Annual Local CountryFest

Indian Ranch, Webster, MA

September 16, 2017

In what is intended to be an annual event, organized and promoted by Octo Rock Cinema Productions, the inaugural Local CountryFest seemed to be a rousing success. With a decent-sized, fully engaged crowd and several of the area’s best country artists, this was a great start to what will, hopefully, become a Massachusetts fall tradition. With Lyssa Coulter performing before the event and during the first two intermissions, special guest Tom Revane, and a country line-up of the Houston Bernard Band, Annie Brobst, Scarlett Drive, and Timmy Brown and Black Diamond leading up to headliner Ashley Jordan, the day was a veritable who’s who of local country music.

Ashley Jordan

Ashley Jordan; photo by Geoff Wilbur

The big-name line-up itself recently received some brand new accolades. Three of the artists – Annie Brobst, Ashley Jordan, and the Houston Bernard Band – were recently nominated for Country Artist of the Year by Boston Music Awards. Of course, from first-hand experience, I knew to expect great things from the two artists I had previously reviewed: Annie Brobst was one of the artists at Nina Pickell’s Behind the Songs event at the Hard Rock Cafe in Boston this spring. And, of course, I reviewed Ashley Jordan’s latest album, He’s Crazy, and have reviewed Ashley’s live performances at Loft 266 in Worcester and at The Mill 185 in West Boylston. In any case, the lineup of this year’s inaugural event was loaded with talent.

Steve Charette

Before I get to the music, I should note that I ran across magician Steve Charette both before and during the show. He was on-site to entertain those waiting in line and mingling outside the main stage area – between sets, presumably, since I can’t imagine people wandering far from the music with such talented artists on-stage. I witnessed a sequence of cool card tricks and other close-up illusions. Very cool. (Sorry Steve; I didn’t think to snap a photo of you to include with the review.)

Lyssa Coulter

Lyssa Coulter; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Lyssa Coulter

Lyssa performed acoustically at the Corral Stage, accompanied by Rocco Lombardo on guitar, for a half-hour while the crowd was filing in before the initial main stage performer and for about fifteen minutes each during the first two set breaks. Lyssa is a young artist rapidly building a local following, and this was a nice showcase for her skills. Lyssa performed “Leave the Night On” (twice, during different breaks) as it seems to be a cover that suits her. She sounds best when pushing the upper limit of her range; it gives her vocals an insistence and intensity. “Live Like You Were Dying” featured notable guitarwork by Rocco, while Lisa’s voice almost (but not quite) cracked for some cool emphasis. Other covers she performed well included “American Honey” and “Bartender.” The one original I heard Lyssa perform, the engaging, mid-tempo “By My Side,” very clearly hit her vocal sweet spot, as should generally be the case with an original.

In all, Lyssa’s short Corral Stage performances offered quick glimpses of a fast-developing, talented young artist who will just keep getting better. Of course, Lyssa’s star is already quickly on the rise; she was a finalist in the regional NashNext competition this year, an event won by Ashley Jordan.

Houston Bernard Band

Houston Bernard Band; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Houston Bernard Band

I was quite impressed by Houston and his band. I hadn’t previously heard any of the band’s songs, but the band caught my attention from the initial song, a high-energy kickoff number that from my notes I presume was “You’re All I Need (I Don’t Need Much).” The band’s music is full of energy, country hooks, Houston’s voice – he has a vocal twang on his middle and upper ranges but also a booming deep low-end – and a diversely talented set of instrumentalists. Houston actually worked all of his vocal tricks – twangy high and mid-range vocals and booming deep vox – into the singalong-compelling second song, “Country Crowd.”

Houston Bernard Band

Houston Bernard Band; photo by Geoff Wilbur

“Ready to Leave” really popped, with strong hooks, massive stop-starts, and an opportunity to strain the vocals for emotion; it’s built for country hit radio. Speaking of country hit radio, though, the band’s catchy song “Yoga Pants” is topically hit-worthy wrapped in great old-school country packaging, replete with a guitar-picking and spoken-word opening.

Those were the first four numbers. At this point, the band had the crowd in the palm of its hand, leading into its Montgomery Gentry tribute, a solid rendition of “Hell Yeah.” Later in the set, a cover medley showed off the great Southern rock voice of the band’s keyboardist and the electric guitarist’s more Southern-rock-meets-the-Eagles voice. Versatility. Eventually, the band closed with the energetic, danceable, rockin’ country tune “Knockin’ Boots” (“knockin’ boots on the dance floor…”) The band’s mostly-original-music set was concert-quality. I’d be excited to discover these guys were opening for my favorite national act. And I see a path to that given the Houston Bernard Band’s radio-ready style and versatility.

Annie Brobst Band

Annie Brobst Band; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Annie Brobst

Annie Brobst owns the stage. Period. It’s hers. And she established that from the very start by leading off with an immediate pop of energy on “I Could Say No.” The first song on her EP, it showcases Annie as the power-country singer she is and, well, boom! Then she moved straight to her mellow side with “Write Me a Song,” utilizing a rich, serious, strong, soft vocal.

Lyssa Coulter and Annie Brobst

Lyssa Coulter and Annie Brobst; photo by Geoff Wilbur

A couple songs later, Annie was joined on-stage by Lyssa Coulter for a duet of Kelsea Ballerini’s “Yeah Boy.” They performed the song with great back-and-forth vocals and duet harmonies; it also served as an opportunity for Annie’s fiddle player to shine.

Next up (I think) was Miranda Lambert’s “Baggage Claim,” recognizably driven by slide guitar and a little sly shuffle in Annie’s vox (and, holy crap!, that powerful punch in some spots). And then… Annie’s softer-again storytelling original “Ghost.”

“Paperweight” bopped along with the banjo adding a travelin’-song flavor to this fun-tempoed number, complete with stop-start attention-grabbing “pops.” And then, following her “bro country” cover, “Bottoms Up,” which she delivered with punch and with featured a great guitar solo, Annie closed with “Still Water.” “Still Water” featured that strong but wistful vocal edge that’s perfectly suited to its slide-guitar accompaniment, and it was driven by a relentless drum line that served as its tempo-mover. A terrific song to close an arena-caliber set.

Scarlett Drive

Scarlett Drive; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Scarlett Drive

I suppose the shortest description of Scarlett Drive is that they’re a fun, jammin’, party-country band with strong vocals and tight harmonies, showing the crowd a heck of a good time. (OK, you got me; that’s not very short.)

The band got off to a powerful start, with driving drums, screaming guitars, and those aforementioned harmonies driving the first song of their set.

Original “Next Train” was an early-set standout, featuring notable drop-down vocals. It was followed by a strong cover of Lady Antebellum’s “We Owned the Night,” sporting funky guitar and three-party harmonies.

“If You Wanna” was performed in the band’s trademark celebratory style, mixing harmonies with vocal runs, guitar punch, and forceful drumming, while “One More Time” showcased that top emotional edge of lead male vocalist Chris Martin’s range, with strong backing harmonies in moments-of-emphasis and a neat electric guitar line snaking its way through the song.

Remaining highlights included “Quarters,” Scarlett Drive’s slow-dance song, one of those anthemic, arena-full-of-lighters numbers, and set-closer “I Blame the Whiskey,” a danceable, fun, energetic, arena-country number.

Timmy Brown & Black Diamond

Timmy Brown & Black Diamond; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Timmy Brown & Black Diamond

Another of the Boston area’s big-name country acts that has earned its fair share of notoriety, Timmy Brown & Black Diamond kept things humming, kicking their set off with “Amen,” an arena-filling number featuring crunchy country-rock guitar and textured power vocals.

Next up were “Dirt on My Boots,” which prominent fiddle accents, and “Tequila Lime & Salt,” a fun – what else could it be with a song title like that? – mid-to-uptempo original. And then “Drinkin’ Problem,” mellow and smooth with a rich, warm vocal texture.

Timmy followed that with “Fly Away,” noting it was a song for his grandmother, and following through with an as-expected sweet, heartfelt song with rich harmonies. Timmy’s vocal was smooth with just a hint of a rough edge, as if it was textured with really fine sandpaper. The band continued with slow-paced twanger “Save It For a Rainy Day.”

Later in the set, the band pandered to the New England crowd by performing an exceptionally well-done rendition of a guaranteed Boston-area crowd-pleaser, “Sweet Caroline,” setting up its closing number, the band’s single “Little Bit.” “Little Bit” seems like one of those songs you’ll sing along to quickly, with an engaging tempo and everyday-life, “real” country feel – one of those everyday American slice-of-life songs. Great way to end the set, and a terrific choice for a single.

Tom Revane Live

Tom Revane Live; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Tom Revane Live

Tom Revane and his band were perhaps the closest thing to misfits at this event. Extremely popular local artists who live and perform regularly in and around Webster, they were the locallest of the local bands and brought a group of rabid, very vocal and visible fans to the event, but I wouldn’t necessarily consider them country. They did, however, perform a lively six-song set of favorites – Skynyrd’s “Call Me the Breeze,” “Brown Eyed Girl,” Jimmy Buffett’s “Volcano,” “Wagon Wheel” (the sole country song of the bunch), and one more song whose name I failed to jot down before closing, fittingly, with “Margaritaville.” Indeed, simultaneously energetic and laid-back, Tom and his motley crew might best be described as Parrotheads-plus, as they brought an unapologetic party atmosphere to the evening. (“Parrotheads” because of the very Buffett-esque, laid-back party vibe; “plus” because their playlist extends well beyond Buffett.)

Ashley Jordan

Ashley Jordan; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Ashley Jordan

That led us to the main event, the headliner of the night, Ashley Jordan. I had only previously seen Ashley perform acoustically, so I was looking forward to this full band performance, a big show on a big stage where she could let loose. And, indeed, with the room to roam, Ashley showed how well she can work the stage and own the crowd as a big-show headliner. Bring on the arenas! But, of course, I’m getting ahead of myself…

Ashley kicked things off with a consistent crowd favorite from her Nothing in Doubt album, a tune about an oh-so-country topic, as she and her band found their groove during the course of “Drink Some Whiskey.”

Next up was a cover I particularly enjoy hearing Ashley perform, her rendition of “Black Horse and a Cherry Tree,” because it allows her to hit some big notes and showcase her vocal power. It also shows off some of her band’s exceptional talent with some fun fiddle parts, and a neat musical move her bass player deploys.

Ashley moved on to one of my (many) favorites from her latest CD, He’s Crazy, the guitar-picking-powered “Blue Eyed Boy,” a song that ranges from sweetness to twangy power.

Ashley Jordan

Ashley Jordan; photo by Geoff Wilbur

A cover of Miranda Lambert’s “Vice” stood out for its great a cappella opening and its showcase of the breadth of Ashley’s vocal range, from emotional voice cracks to her strong low end and some serious power vocals.

A trio of songs from He’s Crazy followed, from the emotionally powerful “So Far Gone” to a couple of the bigger songs on the album. “Lone Wolf” sports a true power vocal and prominently features the fiddle; its heavy rhythm and power is ideally delivered in a full band setting. And then “Weapon,” the album’s first track, a big Nashville-style production number that features strength and power and an especially cool role for the fiddle.

Ashley then did a pure country version of Maren Morris’ “My Church” before unveiling a new original. I’m not sure of the title, but with a woman-power, Miranda-esque delivery, she treated the crowd to her new song featuring lyrics referencing “just another boy playing games.” It’s a catchy one!

The next couple of songs, both from He’s Crazy, continued the theme. The first, “In Spite of You,” is vocally both sweet and spiteful, soft and powerful. And then the album’s title track, “He’s Crazy,” opened with crunchy lead electric guitar and grew into an arena-caliber country rocker.

Ashley closed the show with a powerfully-delivered cover of “Sweet Home Alabama” that’s really cool with the fiddle part. A crowd-pleasing end to a big set of music from a hard-working local musician whose career ceiling is a starry sky.

That brought to an end the first annual Country MusicFest. The event was well-run and featured a full day of top-notch New England country music talent. Hopefully, therefore, this will be the beginning of an annual local tradition, a showcase where country music fans can enjoy their favorite local performers and discover some new artists, performing in the sort of concert-style, big-event setting for which our best local talent is all ably prepared.

Live Review: Ashley Jordan at The Mill 185

Ashley Jordan

photo by John Darrah

Ashley Jordan

The Mill 185, West Boylston, MA

December 15, 2016

Ashley Jordan

photo by Geoff Wilbur

I last (and first) saw Ashley Jordan perform live in August after hearing repeatedly from locals inside and outside the music industry about her amazing talent. I reviewed her new CD He’s Crazy a month later. And on this particular night, an evening with an early start out here in the outer suburbs — practically in Worcester, actually — from one of New England’s finest singers was just the tonic for a Thursday night toward the end of a long work week. This was, I think, Ashley’s first local gig since her trip to the NashNext finals in Nashville in October. It was also a chance to hear Ashley joined by drummer Frank Pupillo; when I caught her set in August, she was performing solo, so this was an interesting added element to the performance.

Ashley Jordan

photo by John Darrah

One of these days, if talent and skill are rewarded, and because I know she has the fortitude and drive to take advantage of the opportunities presented to her, I’ll get to see Ashley headlining a stadium tour. Of course, success in the music business is always a bit of a crapshoot, but Ashley Jordan is playing with loaded dice. So, for now, it’s nice to get to see one of country music’s premier young talents at a club show in small-town Massachusetts.

This was a bit of an odd gig. I love the room — I hadn’t been to The Mill 185 before — but one chunk of the audience was an office Christmas party, and it made for an interesting vibe. Great chance for them to get to hear such a talented singer, and it was clear they were enjoying it, as were the rest of us in the room.

Ashley Jordan

photo by Geoff Wilbur

As often is the case, I didn’t seek out a set list, and you already know I haven’t listened to country radio much in the last decade, so I may get both originals I haven’t heard and cover song titles wrong, but I’ll give it a shot. I walked in during what I believe was the first song of the evening, unless she started early, to the strains of “A Little Time.” If, indeed, it was the first song, it was a great way to start the evening. She followed it with her power-acoustic-guitar-driven original “Drink Some Whiskey.”

Ashley Jordan

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Ashley then launched into the first song of the evening from her new album, He’s Crazy — one of my favorites from the disc, “Blue Eyed Boy.” She captured the emotion of the song exceptionally well, as usual. And then she followed it with a song that unleashed a lot of anger; “I Don’t Know You Anymore,” I believe.

Ashley Jordan

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Next, Ashley launched into her cover of KT Tunstall’s “Black Horse and a Cherry Tree.” I love how she performs this particular cover; it shares a bit of a rockin’ growl edge she’s able to call upon, showcasing her versatility to perform at the rock end of the country spectrum; it’s a capability she shows during a few of her originals, too, but something about this cover really captures it well.

Then came the emotional “So Far Gone,” an original made all the more poignant by Ashley’s well-considered lyrics. It was followed by a strong, dynamic vocal performance during a cover of Maren Morris’ “My Church.”

Ashley Jordan

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Next up, Ashley unleashed some booming vocals during her “Coming Home” cover. And she closed the set just as dynamically with a rousing rendition of “He’s Crazy,” the title track from her new CD. On this night, she delivered it with a particularly emphatic guitar line supporting her always-strong vocals.

The evening continued much longer, of course, but I was just there for the first set, leaving early in the second. Glad I spotted this gig — catching a little Ashley Jordan music early enough for me to get back home and get up for work the next day was the perfect way to spend a Thursday evening. And it was an opportunity to check out this venue and sample a bit of its menu. Pretty sure I’ll be back here, as well, next time I have a chance.

Ashley Jordan

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Looking Ahead

If you haven’t seen Ashley Jordan live, keep an eye on the tour page of her website and on her Facebook page, which is where I found about this show. If you have seen her perform, of course, you’re probably already doing these things.

And while this was her first live performance in several weeks, she has been busy, getting her new single, “Weapon,” played on The Bull 101.7 and releasing her new Christmas song, “Where Are You Christmas.”

Album Review: Ashley Jordan – He’s Crazy

Ashley Jordan

photo by Kenzie Klem at Kenzie Klem Photography; photo courtesy of Ashley Jordan

Ashley Jordan – He’s Crazy

The Backstory

Ashley Jordan is well-known and highly regarded around New England. Since I started this blog, I had been looking for an opportunity to catch a live performance of hers, and her gig schedule finally coincided with my availability in August. You can read that review, so I won’t rehash it, but there’s a reason she’s regionally well-known, even in the city of Boston and not just in the outer suburbs where country music has a decent following. I’m pleased to get the chance to review her newest album.

Album Review of Ashley Jordan: He’s Crazy

A singer can only get so far simply by having a broad vocal range and hitting all the notes. There has to be a warmth, a richness, a fullness in the voice to convey understanding and truth, to blend well with the other instruments and to establish an emotional investment and understanding that causes you, the listener, to hang on every word, a tone and tenor that allow you to feel the singer’s emotion straight from her heart as if she’s singing only to you whether it’s in a crowded venue or the privacy of your headset. Ashley Jordan has that. That’s why she’s a local favorite, one of our area gems. And, combined with the strong work ethic and desire I’ve heard mentioned when people speak of her, that’s why she’ll go as far as she gets the opportunity to.

cover photo by Eric Snyder at EAS Photography; image courtesy of Ashley Jordan

cover photo by Eric Snyder at EAS Photography; image courtesy of Ashley Jordan

Ashley is from the small town of Harvard, Massachusetts. For those outside the Boston area, that’s 30 miles and a world away from its name-sharing university and Boston/Cambridge. Harvard, Mass. is small-town USA. I think I drove through it once, but I blinked and missed it. Still, given its proximity to Boston, Ashley was able to hone her skills busking in the big city beginning as a young teen. So it’s not surprising she exudes ample small-town charm backed by big-city confidence when she performs. It’s a deadly combination, one tailor-made for Nashville in particular and country music in general. Indeed, I get a bit of a Carrie Underwood-ish vibe from Ashley Jordan.

He’s Crazy is Ashley’s fourth album. And this time, it’s personal. Or at least it sure seems that way. The album centers upon the theme of an ended relationship, at different times sad, angry, introspective, dismissive, and defiant about it. Much the way Taylor Swift’s relationships are fertile songwriting fodder, this could be Taylor’s next album. But, to be honest, I’d much rather hear Ashley sing it. She clearly knows how to write songs that suit her voice and adds those personal touches, those vocal flourishes, that make a great vocalist unique and recognizable. The songwriting is impeccable, as well; Ashley deals from a vocabulary that’s broad but familiar, and the lyrics chosen are almost always very precise and ideal for the situation.

I’m guessing this album will have staying power, too, because each time I think I’ve selected a favorite song, I’m struck by a different mood and a different perfect track to represent it. So if you’ll indulge me, let me take you song-by-song through this impactful collection.

The disc opens with “Weapon.” Great way to start off. This one’s big-time. After a couple listens, I was checking the liner notes to make sure this was really an original, as it quickly became an old favorite. A powerful country tune, it’s mostly mellow but bursts forth with power and the sort of roar you’re more likely to hear from a rock band like Imagine Dragons. Just a hint of that rock edge, as it’s clearly a country tune, but this is the sort of song that could explode across genres. Between the violin opening and explosions of sound during the song all supporting her powerful vocals, this could be a signature song for a hot young artist.

Ashley Jordan

photo by Eric Snyder at EAS Photography; photo courtesy of Ashley Jordan

“Come Home” is a wistful country crooner, as Ashley’s voice soars through the chorus, and though the song is not rock, it somehow recalls rock phrasings of the word “home” ranging from Phillip Phillips’ “Home” to Scorpions’ “Coming Home,” even if the comparison ends at that word. Indeed, there are ample small-town country girl moments like the way she sings “mem’ry” that show a country sensibility and a hint of even country-folk influence. There’s also that dramatic pause late in the chorus that recalls the hooks from the big ’90s alt-rock hits. (Think Barenaked Ladies.) Though seemingly simple to categorize (“country”), Ashley’s songs are so much more complicated than they first seem once you lift the veil; this is a prime example of that.

I wrote in my live review that I hear a bit of Dolly Parton and Clare Bowen in Ashley’s voice. “Blue Eyed Boy” is the song that most brings both of these comparisons to mind, of Clare during the gentle moments but more of Dolly when she ever-so-slightly adds a little more power. And what seems like a bit of a twang at times comes across as defiant determination across a guitar-pickin’ music backdrop in this well-written song with its encouraging, resolute spin on a particular heartbreak.

The laid-back strumming of “Losin’ My Damn Mind” seems like something you’d hear around a campfire, walking the line between folky country and ’70s storytelling country, yet with a modern pop-inspired wail. And some of the phrases carry a bit of a James Taylor vibe. It’s a nice little damn song.

“In Spite of You” is the truly defiant song in this collection, downright rebellious in comparison to the merely-cranky-by-comparison “Blue Eyed Boy.” (Of course, y’all already know I enjoy a bit of snark and attitude with my country.) With a bit of radio play, I’m sure this would quickly become a favorite post-breakup anthem on campuses nationwide, with some great, cathartic scream-along moments.

Ashley Jordan

photo by Eric Snyder at EAS Photography; photo courtesy of Ashley Jordan

I suppose “Short Fuse” could be a word to the wise about staying on Ashley’s good side. Seriously, though, this is one of many sing-along worthy tunes, with sensitive guitar building to strength and a vocal edge at the song’s climax that conveys the fraying of her last nerve. Yes, she’s a convincing vocalist who’ll convince you every thought and lyric in her songs is the gospel truth, leaving you to wonder how much, if any, is fiction.

“Lone Wolf,” though, is the song that I always scream along with. Ashley, of course, is singing with smooth power on the disc while I’m merely screaming in the car. Though propelled by a tribal rhythm, this track is still slow-paced, but it is the one song on this disc that fully and frequently unleashes the tuneful firepower her voice is capable of.

“So Far Gone” mixes strength and sensitivity, power and compassion into a combination of music and lyrics that serve as a strong reminder of this vocalist’s songwriting skills. It’s all in the details, and, of course, she writes to her vocal strengths.

On “He’s Crazy,” a dancing and screaming guitar line weaves its way behind Ashley’s emotive vocals. This is the one song on which she utilizes a high register that I want to call a falsetto, but it really isn’t. It is quite cool, though. Yet another tool in her toolkit. And by song’s end, she leaves the listener convinced he’s crazy… though after “Short Fuse,” maybe he has a point.

“Angels” closes the album on a sensitive note, softly, though if you listen to the lyrics, perhaps a bit dysfunctionally.

Beginning to end, this album is a moderately-paced country tour de force; for those who don’t yet know her, it’s a terrific introduction to a young woman who has every skill – as a songwriter, in the studio, live, and seemingly off-stage as well – to be a country music star. So get this album, enjoy Ashley’s music, and root for her to gain broader notice. I can only imagine how she’d rock a packed Gillette.

If you get a chance, get ahold of a copy of this disc. I’d guess “Weapon,” “He’s Crazy,” and “Angels” will have the biggest chance of breakout success, but if you’re like me, another song or two on this album, which is solid beginning to end, may be your favorites.

Looking Ahead

Ashley has a busy weekend ahead. On Saturday, September 24th, she has the 11:30 AM time slot on the main stage at the Cape Cod Scallop Fest in Falmouth, MA. And the next day, on Sunday, September 25th, she opens for Trace Adkins at 1:00 PM at Indian Ranch in Webster, MA. The concert page on her website also lists a Friday, September 30 gig at Indian Ranch, performing as part of the Nash Next Radio competition. Obviously, check back to her website for additional upcoming shows.

Geoff’s Night Out: Ashley Jordan at Loft 266

Ashley Jordan

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Ashley Jordan

Loft 266, Worcester, MA

August 24, 2016

As I’ve mentioned before, I often strike up conversations with people about local music. And during several of those conversations, with both fans and people within the music scene here in Massachusetts, I have been asked “Have (I) seen Ashley Jordan?” So, with a nod to the “where there’s smoke there must be fire” school of music journalism, I finally made a point to catch Ashley last night during her Wednesdays-in-August residency at Loft 266. And though I was only able to stay for her first set, I can confirm that there is, indeed, fire.

At just 23, Ashley has been performing for 10 years and is a recording studio veteran, as well, with four albums in the past six years. A quick glance at her bio shows a long list of awards dating back six years; she particularly seems to have swept most of the local country music award categories the last four years. If one of the next batch of young country stars comes from Massachusetts, it’s a good bet Ashley’s your gal.

Ashley Jordan

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Performing an acoustic set of mostly originals last night, Ashley showcased her broad range. When she sings quietly, I hear a bit of Clare Bowen in her voice – that’s “Scarlett” to fans of the TV show Nashville. Some of her mid-tempo, high-but-spunky/powerful bits recall Dolly Parton; when you hear it, you’ll know what I mean. And I’m not sure which blend of young pop-rockin’ country stars she reminds me of when she sings with strength, but her mellow-to-power vocal runs suggest she could be one of the special ones.

A couple of the originals that made an impact – there were more than two, but these were the only ones whose titles I jotted down – were “Angels,” which shows shows vocal range, and “He’s Crazy,” which features a range of vocal dynamics. (Both songs are featured on Ashley’s new album, He’s Crazy.)

A notable cover was Ashley’s rendition of “Black Horse and a Cherry Tree,” as it shows off a richer, soulful low end and some energetic howls that hint at the full extent of her vocal talents.

The one thing I was left wanting at the end of set was a chance to hear Ashley perform with a full band. An acoustic set is fine, but I can just imagine the songs with their full arrangements…

Looking Ahead

Tonight, Thursday, August 25th you can catch Ashley at the Hard Rock Cafe at Foxwoods (Mashantucket, CT). I’m sure that’ll be a heck of a show. And next Wednesday, August 31st, she finishes her August residency at Loft 266 in Worcester, MA. She also currently has two September gigs scheduled, both at Perfect Game in Worcester, MA – Friday, September 2nd and Friday, September 16th. You can keep abreast of Ashley’s live performance schedule via the “Tour” page on her website.