British artists seeking the inspirational surroundings of Nashville, Tennessee can almost reach a crossroads of which path they ultimately want to major in. For some the glamour and bright lights associated with the image spun world of the multi-media age can turn into a distant goal while others gravitate to the side where they hope substance will prevail over style. It crudely can be pitched as pop versus folk or full blown electric versus fiddle and steel but country music should be diverse enough to accommodate a significant amount of diversity. One listen to TENNESSEE TRACKS by Catherine Ashby and there is little doubt that the goal is more AMA than CMA. The result is an EP wringing in emotion, sung with gravelly depth and capturing a sound drenched in Americana sentiment.
No doubt the songs were in place before London based Catherine headed to Music City and enlisted the services of the now late Lorna Flowers to bring them to palatable fruition in a style rich in atmospheric essence and aching in the longing sound of pedal steel et al. There must be an enormous amount of pride in the way the songs have grown roots upwards with the lead track ‘Memphis’ giving the release a fitting launch in such a grand style. This is followed by the haunting track ‘Dispel’ which itself lays the groundwork for the record to flourish into the beautiful ‘Magnolia Arch’.
By now the fiddle is flowing alongside Dobro and Catherine is immersing herself even deeper into a sound reminiscent of many a leading female US folk singer seeking to soak their material in the fertile springs of classic country music. ‘Craving More’ is an apt title for the fourth track which now sees Catherine firmly in the groove and cruising towards the pivotal moment of the record. For me that occurs in the final song where ‘Letting Go’ does as it says with great reluctance and plants the ultimate question of what next for Catherine.
Realistically the quest is to raise awareness through the promotion of TENNESSEE TRACKS and spread the word that high quality folk-Americana is alive, well and flourishing this side of the ocean without the need for any pseudo American pretence. This is a release ready made for any fans of left field singer –songwriter fare and possesses a timeless feel to reach out to newcomers to the country genre in need of some substance. By nailing the songs, vocal intensity and musical arrangements to a tee, Catherine Ashby has produced a release ready to announce her arrival to listeners outside the bounds of her inner circle.
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