Ash Gray – Chicken Wire
Labelship Records – 26 January 2018
Born in Pittsburgh and raised in Texas by Yorkshire parents and now resident in Sheffield, Ash Gray trades in Texan alt-country, driven by urgent guitars and wailing harmonica, albeit with intermittent variations. Album opener, the chugging The Other Man lays down the Southern-fired country boogie, a mood echoed elsewhere on The Creek Don’t Rise and the blues-tinged, slide-guitar groove When The Devil Comes Home.
By contrast, there are folkier touches to be found on Golden Road which has a similar feel to You Ain’t Going Nowhere, the rippling acoustic fingerpicked Josephine Clark which brings together echoes of both Simon & Garfunkel and 60s LA folk rockers Hearts & Flowers and, reminding me slightly of ISB, Life’s Pounding Adventure. He’s more musically experimental on the five-minute-plus shape-shifting nu-folk of Sundown (Come See Me) with its midsection cello, the strings-swathed title cut has a desert night feel while things close with It Might Get Loud, a dose of foot tapping, hand clapping fingerpicked jugband blues that John Sebastian would love.
On the downside, the print on the CD inner sleeve is so small you’d need the eyesight of a hawk to read the lyrics and credits, but the catchy hooks, Gray’s soft-toned cosmic cowboy vocals and the infectious tunes are a treat for the ears.