By Emily Wagner
Whew. It wasn’t a fluke, a one-hit album and done kind of career. Nope. Ashley McBryde is a country ARTIST and she just proved it with her sophomore album Never Will, an album that will be known as one of the best of 2020.
There’s no doubt that McBryde has her doubters, those naysayers who don’t understand the recognition and awards, just because they don’t hear her on the radio. Lucky for us, McBryde takes those feelings and turns them into the title track of her album. In “Never Will” she calls out the haters as graciously as ever, when she says “I can point out the names and faces of the people who said it/ but honestly, I just don’t want to give ‘em any credit.”
This album doesn’t come off as a copy of her first album Girl Goin’ Nowhere. It has fresh melodies, lyrics, styles, all while showing off the range she possesses. Ashely can go from true blue country, almost bluegrass sounding in “The First Thing I Reach For” to electric guitars and rock and roll in “Voodoo Doll.”
The album wouldn’t be complete or be even half as good without two songs in particular.
“Sparrow” seems to be a complete reflection on the past few years of Ashely’s life. The success of her first album, and the awards and accolades from her peers and fans. But there’s always that part of you that misses what you’re missing out on; home, hometowns, old friends, but yet not willing to trade away any part of the life you’ve been given.
“Stone” is a masterpiece. It’s raw and vulnerable and I’m not sure how McBryde was able to put the words on the page. The song deals with the suicide of her older brother, and it goes through the feelings of anger, sadness, and the too-late realization that she and her brother shared a lot of similarities. We just don’t hear songs with this kind of weight and vulnerability anymore.
Like any good country song, McBryde can weave a story into a 3-minute span. From a revengeful murder in “Martha Divine” to “Velvet Red” a swampy love story that crosses socio-economic divides, Ashley manages to always deliver a unique story.
Besides “Syrofoam” a cheeky ode to the material that we under-appreciate every day, “Shut Up Sheila” is the only other song not written by McBryde on this album. But man, she sure knows how to pick ‘em. Sheila is that middle-aged woman who likes to judge others even though nobody asked her, and I love the songs unapologetic way of saying, ‘this is the family we are, it works for us, so deal with it.’
Most of us know the first single released from the album, “One Night Standards” and I love that it caused a stir, because if people are listening to half the songs being put out on radio, this is relatively tame. Then there’s the first song of the album, the perfect song to be the lead-in track to the rest of the 10 songs, “Hang In There Girl.” I use this as a person anthem, and it would be the next best song to hand over to country radio.
Ashley McBryde proved with her first album that she’s not trying to be the next Carrie or Miranda. With her second album, Never Will she solidified it. She is who she is, and she’s going to make the kind of music that she wants to. And she makes pretty damn good music.