ASH GRAY – Chicken Wire (Labelship Records – LC24628)

Chicken WireDespite being something of a veteran on various indie circuits – on two continents, no less – Chicken Wire is only the second solo album by Ash Gray. As a native of Austin, Texas and a resident of Sheffield, England, Gray manages to bring both surroundings together on this Long Player, adding a bit of steel guitar to the steel city; where Sheffield musicians lay the foundations and Austin musos add a touch of ‘country’ magic.

It’s an Americana record, but a very eclectic one at that, gravitating between an easy going singer-songwriter approach and harder hitting, electrically drenched, country rock. It is the harmonica-driven sounds of the latter category which kick the album off, (‘The Other Man’) before we are led into the comparatively stripped back ‘Golden Road’ and its alternations between familiar ‘country’ sounds and a slightly folkier approach. There are a few songs on this album which have a similar vibe; the ever so slightly Simon and Garfunkel-esque ‘Josephine Clark’, the nu-folkish ‘Sundown (Come and See Me)’ and musically quirky ‘It Might Get Loud’. Along with these folkier traits, the album’s all out country vibes are not hard to find, however.

‘The Creek Don’t Rise’, which borrows from the Alabama saying “If the good Good Lord’s willin’ and the creek don’t rise…” (most famously associated with the Yellowhammer State’s favourite son, Hank Williams) is very much a country affair and is a personal favourite of mine and much like the first track , it is the harmonica which helps navigate the song. Side 2 opens with a number called ‘When The Devil Comes Home’, where this time it is the sounds of the steel guitar which colour our tangibly countrified experience, as they do on the slightly sinister ‘Chicken Wire’; title track and stand out number.

This is a collection of ten songs which hold together quite convincingly, not only in the sense that there are no obvious weak links on the disc, but in the way, that although each track is very different from the next, everything feels very much related; actually creating the feeling that this really is “an album” in the truest sense of the word.

Christopher James Sheridan

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