Personnel: Ryan Beattie (vocals, guitar, baritone guitar); Peter La Grand (vocals, guitar, dobro); Ashley Webber (vocals, guitar); Darcy Hancock (guitar); Joshua Wells (keyboards, percussion).
Audio Mixer: Joshua Wells.
Recording information: The Balloon Factory.
Photographer: Maggie Boyd.
Ashley Shadow is the aching, eponymous debut from the solo moniker of Ashley Webber, an established working musician with album credits that include works by Bonnie "Prince" Billy and the Cave Singers, among others. She was also the bassist for now-defunct post-punk revivalists the Organ. Many may wonder what took her so long to take the reins after hearing the album's engaging, gritty mix of acoustic and electric, strong and vulnerable. Webber also happens to sport a vocal delivery that recalls such esteemed names as Sharon Van Etten and Angel Olsen. The record opens with the theatrical ballad "All for You," an intense, churning plea to be left behind. Rhythm guitar and bass plod relentlessly beside distraught vocals until string-like synths and piano tones reinforce the singer's point in the chorus: "Don't wait for me/I can't stop this losing." The twangier "Blurred Views" employs sustained distortion, atmospheric slide guitar, and subtle keyboards for an equally affecting elegy. In contrast but not straying from the album's brooding tone, "Another Day" is a brisker, post-punky work with fully engaged drums and spacy delay, and the deadpan "Tonight" stirs echoes of dream pop, lo-fi, and Phil Spector between layered guitars. The singer's quivering vibrato is front-and-center throughout but especially emphatic on the barely restrained "Laws" ("Your laws make it hard to stretch out.Your silence makes me want to shout"). Later, on an album that blurs the fine lines between designations like indie, lo-fi, and mainstream rock, the closer, "Sun," offers a classic rock-era guitar ballad that's timeless save for stray ghostly effects. A strong song list that makes it hard to guess the singles, Ashley Shadow proves the able performer to have songcrafting skills to match. ~ Marcy Donelson