Greg Ashley – Another Generation of Slaves

ashley-lpRating: ★★★★½

The past few weeks I’ve been listening to Another Generation of Slaves pretty non-stop.  When it came down to the arbitrary rating system, I wavered between a 4 and a 5, then settled on the now visible 4.5. While those numbers may mean little, all I can say as I write is that Greg Ashley has left us with a record that, at this point, is the best collection of songs I’ve heard this year.

“East Texas Plain” is a brilliantly solemn ballad.  It opens with a barroom piano while some understated percussion provides the perfect accent to Greg Ashley’s voice.  There’s something that goes into his vocal delivery that offers a familiarity to it; I keep thinking that he’s a more palatable Richard Hawley.  I particularly like how there’s just a little buzz in the recording too, providing some authenticity to what lays within.  Yet, Ashley doesn’t want to create something that weighs you down with one simple style.  “Brother Raymond” is a bluesy offering that brings a little bit of a rock n’ roll swagger to his creation.  It’s the perfect placement too…giving a bit of energy before bringing you to the best track.

It’s not that Another Generation of Slaves peaks entirely early, but I cannot get “Awkward Affections” out of my head.  There’s not too much to the actually lyrical content, but there’s a huge emotional pull going on inside.  Perhaps it’s the repeated séance of “you make me feel like shit/I wanna kill myself.”  If you’re looking for a song that begs to be played again and again, you should find a way to get your hands on this number.  However, the early tracks, like the three above all fall under 4 minutes, while it seems Greg saved his more laborious tracks for the latter half of the record.

The last few tracks on this record are all over 5 minutes, with my personal favorite being “Prisoner #1131267.” I love the piano work on this track; it sounds like there’s some classical training here, but at the same time, the way it’s used makes it seem like it’s just about to go out of tune; it buzzes and hums in your speakers.  It’s songs like these, which is pretty much every track, where you can hear an artist putting every bit on the line, musically.  Sure, Ashley might sound subdued at times, but other moments exist where he’s just belting out the notes, maximizing his passion.

I can’t really explain how much I love listening to Another Generation of Slaves.  There are songs that sound like cowboy piano ballads, then there are others with horns to jazz things up a bit.  There’s no telling which way Greg Ashley is going to take you on this listen, but I can assure you that no matter which way he goes, you’re not going to be let down one bit.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/03-Awkward-Affections.mp3]