Texan singer-songwriter Ash Gray has been around for a long time, covering many miles in his rich and varied career. Travelling to the UK in the late 90's he created punkgrass band The High Class Family Butchers before ending up in NYC where he played guitar in the biker band The Cycle Sluts From Hell before forming psych-pop ensemble Ash Gray & The Girls. He released his debut album in 2014 and now his follow up record Chicken Wire offers a blend of 'country and bluegrass with undertones of psych, rewriting the grand Austin tradition of the cosmic cowboy'.
All 10 songs here are Ash Gray originals and the album features a stellar line up of musicians recruited from far and wide, but unfortunately too many to mention by name here.
Opening track 'The Other Man' crashes in on thunderous drums and a glorious guitar riff before everything but the kitchen sink makes an entry. Ash Gray does not have one of those archetypal country voices; quite high in register it has the pleasing nasal twang of the late Tom Petty and cuts neatly through the mix. Rattling by in a rollicking 4 minutes or so this is a great opener indeed.
'Golden Road' is a slower, perhaps more traditional sounding country ballad with some particularly fine pedal steel to the fore whereas 'The Creek Don't Rise' chugs and wheezes along atmospherically hinting at an archetypal blues mythology that reminded me a little of Led Zeppelins take on 'When The Levee Breaks'.
'Josephine Clark' features some clean acoustic picking and a lovely, spacey vocal which, to pop in another reference point, conjured up images of early Simon & Garfunkel. 'Sundown (Come See Me) has another delightfully retro feel and I particularly liked how the drums propel the song whereas 'When The Devil Comes Home' pushes the acoustic guitar back to the fore with another riff laden track.
The rest of the album is of a similarly high standard and other stand out tracks for me were the lovely stripped back simplicity of 'Life's Pounding Adventure' and the tongue in cheek ensemble closer 'It Might Get Loud'.
Great little record this, full of hooky songs all brilliantly performed and recorded in a fashion that captures a delightfully live feel of slightly shambolic excellence. Thoroughly recommended.
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