Exciting, Cinematic Country Rock Brought to You From Texas via NYC and South Yorkshire.
I’ have a ‘hit n miss’ attitude towards Live albums as I’m never sure what I want from them. Quite often they can obviously be ‘contractually obliged’ releases; other times a ‘filler’ because the act received a Tax bill; but sometimes … rarer than you’d imagine; they can capture a band or singer-songwriter on a night when the stars align and the atmosphere is caught on tape.
That is what appears to have happened with this release from a Texan singer-songwriter living in South Yorkshire, who band in tow played a Sold Out gig at a pub that supports music of all persuasions, from Jazz thru Hip-Hop and of course Roots/Americana too.
When he first arrived in London Town Gray played in a band called High-Class Family Butchers then went solo before relocating to NYC were he was in a Biker Band called The Cycle Sluts, releasing a couple of albums along the way …. eventually re-locating ‘Up North’ in Sheffield, where his parents originally came from; and put this band together.
These 12 tracks serve as a ‘Best Of’ all those periods in his life … and showcase the many talents of someone I’d never heard of …. but now ‘need’ to see play live.
That varied apprenticeship comes at you all the way through opening track Jeremiah about his Grandpa; which features some scintillating pedal-steel and a back-beat worthy of Buffalo Springfield behind Gray’s rough around the edges and nasally vocals; which work a treat in this formula.
Baring in mind all of these songs are self-penned; they really are a class above what I would normally expect from a ‘local band’ …. but even a cursory listen to Three Old Guns, the gloriously cinematic Sundown which segues into The County Line (which features some cool organ in the mix too) then goes straight into Byrdsian territory with Back Alive all creating the romantic imagery we hope for from Americana; but rarely get as many bands regularly miss the target …. not here it doesn’t …. bullseyes every time.
Ash Gray’s pedigree comes to the for with the way the gig/album rolls along with highs following lows; barely giving the listener time to catch their breath.
To some degree I get the feeling that the band have given up all hope of headlining Glastonbury or winning a Brit Award, so are making the music that they all love without a care; and that freedom as well as professionalism comes across in every note here; not least on Two Lane Blacktop and the punchy heartbreaker, The Other Man too.
I’m torn between the 7 minute cinematic opus; When The Devil Comes Home and Chickenwire, which comes across as a mix of Tom Russell singing a Ry Cooder song while fronting Calexico ….. so I’m choosing that; but could easily be persuaded to Favour several others …. just not the tedious drum solo which gets its very own track.
I can only presume the constituent parts of Ash Gray & The Burners all have other outside commitments being the reason that I’ve never seen or heard of them before; but the Festival circuit has missed a trick here; as these cats could easily be the second on the bill to anyone; but with the caveat that they could easily blow many a headliner off the stage!
Released December 22nd 2022
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