To put it plainly: Everything behind the second Grammy Nominated album from Ashley McBryde is every bit as brilliant as the music itself.
Arkansas native Ashley McBryde is new to studio albums, but she’s a seasoned vet when it comes to playing country music. The eclectic, gritty-yet-graceful McBryde has been playing dive bars and roadhouses since before most of her audience were old enough to enter either.
Now, however, she’s got four hugely successful studio albums under her belt. Moreover, each has been lauded by critics, with the praise for McBryde’s unique take on the country genre garnering endless praise.
Following up on 2018’s phenomenal (and also Grammy-nominated) Girl Going Nowhere is her second major-label release, Never Will. Today, McBryde found out, along with her fans, that Never Will is also nominated for a Grammy Award.
“Wow, what a STACKED category!!,” she posts with the announcement on Twitter. “Congratulations to my fellow nominees! Excited isn’t a big enough word for this feeling. Thank you, @RecordingAcad!”
Whether you’ve listened to Never Will or are looking forward to it, let the record – and Outsider.com – state that it is nothing short of country’s best. What makes it so? Let’s dive into it alongside McBryde herself and Rolling Stone.
Ashley McBryde & ‘Never Will’ are Country’s Best
Right off the bat, Rolling Stone‘s review of Never Will praises it’s maestro as “mythically down-to-earth”. Channeling Townes Van Zandt and John Mellencamp, McBryde sings “with plain-spoken vulnerability about everyday stuff like her platonic roommate or the folks back home who told her she’d never make a living from her art,” the famed music giant continues.
While all of the former is praise for Girl Going Nowhere, it is equally true of it’s predecessor. “McBryde’s second major-label release, Never Will, is just as daring and deep,” the magazine continues. Even saying it is “sometimes deceptively so.”
At first glance, Never Will is about McBryde’s aforementioned years of “small-town” gigs leading up to her explosion into the pop-country music machine. For McBryde, however, it’s about much more than that.
According to the brilliant artist herself, “the significance behind the album title comes from the lyrics in the title track: ‘I Didn’t, I Don’t and I Never Will’,” she clarified for the album’s release. “Before we recorded it with Jay in the studio, I said to my bandmates, ‘If we’re going to cut this and put it on the record, you’re promising anyone who ever listens to our music, we don’t listen to the noise in the background. We didn’t, we don’t and we never will. Don’t cut it unless you’re willing to promise it.’ And we cut it right then.”
‘Never Will’s Tracks & Influences
For Never Will, Jay Joyce returns as producer. Much of what Joyce and McBryde developed together on Nowhere is present here. McBryde, however, goes above and beyond to showcase other influences and sprinkle hints of her favorite genres into the tracks. They are as follows:
- Hang In There Girl
- One Night Standards
- Shut Up Sheila
- First Thing I Reach For
- Voodoo Doll
- Martha Divine
- Velvet Red
- Never Will
“The LP’s most exciting tracks sound like little else on country radio: “Velvet Red” ((track #8)) is an Emmylou Harris-gone-bluegrass ballad about an Appalachian Romeo and Juliet,” Rolling Stone describes. “First Thing I Reach For” ((track #4)) conjures the Telecaster wisdom of Merle Haggard,” they pinpoint, as well.
Within the beyond-impressive 11 tracks, McBryde is by far at her best when telling stories of other folks. Putting her spin on classics, she touches on everything from small-town gossip (much of which affected her deeply growing up), forbidden romance (ticks the same box), and more.
As such, McBryde’s “small-town heroes are as iconoclastic as she is.” Furthering this, RS points to track #3, “Shut Up Sheila,” in which “a family sits around a hospital room with their dying grandma; when someone’s churchy girlfriend suggests a chorus of “Amazing Grace,” these smokin’, drinkin’ unbelievers shoot back with their own agnostic gospel: “We just go about letting go in our own way.”
Rolling Stone goes on to pinpoint “transgressive lust” as a “defining theme” for the album.
“From the adulteress murder ballad “Martha Divine” ((#7)) to the dark sensuality of “Voodoo Doll” ((#5 – “Feel the pretty black dress slipping off her back”)) to the straightforward portrayal of casual sex on “One Night Standards.” “How it goes is/Bar closes,” McBryde sings on the latter ((#2)), “There’s no king bed covered in roses”,” RS elaborates.
In short: If you weren’t a fan of Ashley McBryde before Never Will – you will be now.
Never Will is available where all music is sold & streamed.
[H/T Rolling Stone]