If the last year has been the one that has finally catapulted Arkansas native Ashley McBryde into the spotlight, then the last 6 months has been responsible for firing her from a canon. Relatively unknown in the UK before her first visit this March for C2C, she was definitely the name on most attendees lips after her sets on the smaller stages and her headline show at London’s Borderline the subsequent week ( we were lucky enough to interview her at the time, http://bellesandgals.com/2018/03/14/interview-with-ashley-mcbryde-conducted-by-lesley-hastings/ )
Her album “Girl Goin’ Nowhere” (her first on a major label) was released shortly afterwards to much critical acclaim, and her recent US headline tour of the same name has been selling out at venue after venue (her Nashville show having to be moved to accommodate demand). She has just been announced as joining Little Big Town on their Canadian tour and is playing Australia’s biggest country music festival, CMC Rocks next Spring. Yep, she’s hardly “going’ nowhere” these days, fantastic to see that her tenacity and ambition (and of course talent!) is finally reaping dividends.
Having opened for Luke Combs Stateside every UK Ashley fan was anxiously waiting to see if she’d be invited to do so over here, and thankfully our wishes were granted …as Ashley told us in Birmingham “Being with someone like Luke Combs, it’s real, real easy to take the gig when they ask you to come back, he takes good care of me”.
First stop on the tour was the O2 Institute Birmingham, and the sell out show had fans of both artists queuing from early on in the day for the best vantage point. A new-to-me venue I was very impressed with the efficiency and friendliness of the staff managing the queue I must add.
Ashley has yet to bring her amazing band “Deadhorse“ with her ( something to look forwards to in the future!) and took to the stage with her acoustic Gibson guitar (and personalised strap) dressed in her now customary boot cut jeans and t shirt (Guns N Roses to be exact!) to a massive cheer. Her ten song, 45 minute set kicked off with Rattlesnake Preacher, an as yet unrecorded and relatively unknown original to those who hadn’t seen her live before but this gospel/blues infused song is one which makes you immediately sit up and take notice of her powerful and emotional vocals (despite apparently having a chest cold!) And I must add that her often overlooked guitar playing (especially her picking) was stunning. The remainder of her set was taken from her two best known releases, the aforementioned album plus 2016’s “Jalopies & Expensive Guitars “ (a line taken from the rowdy, celtic inspired track “Luckiest S.O.B “ which she closed the set with) and she seemed genuinely humbled and taken aback that her fans were singing along word perfect a lot of the time. The exception was one cover, the dark revenge song “Whiskey And A Gun“ which Ashley told us she’s seen her friend perform in Nashville’s Listening Room and that Lisa was the inspiration behind her move to music city.
Ashley is an artist who loves to engage with her audience, she is really hilarious at times, and between numbers she was telling stories behind the songs, but was sadly was drowned out to a lot of the audience by constant talking from those who were obviously there just to see the headliner. They could also be heard on her quieter numbers too, such as the touching tribute to her father, Bible and A.44, totally disrespectful to any artist I’m sure you’ll agree, and not something I’m used to at country music concerts. Ok, people want to have a few drinks and party with their mates but please shut the hell up when there’s someone on stage, even if it’s not who you are there to see…….who knows, you may even be impressed by them!
Fortunately there were enough of us in the crowd us who already appreciate an all round incredible talent like Ashley Mcbryde and gave her the ovation she rightly deserved, and hopefully she also won over some of Luke’s fans who were more open to listening to new music.
As I write this the tour continues for a few more dates, and then Ashley (hopefully still with some voice remaining! ) plays her headline show at London’s Islington Assembly Hall next Wednesday, 10th October (like her Nashville show, upgraded when the original smaller venue sold out out in ten minutes!). Hope to see some of you there……..
Bible And A .44
Fat and Famous
Whiskey and a Gun ( Lisa Carver cover)
Livin’ Next To Leroy
Girl Goin’ Nowhere
Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega
Review written by and images credited to Lesley Hastings (twitter.com/lesleyhastings)