Just before Christmas I was listening to Mike Ritchie’s radio show on Celtic FM when I heard a new song from an act I’d never heard of …. Anna Ash. I immediately did a bit of research and mercifully, just before I contacted her via the website I took a step back and checked my own ITunes .collection; just in case….. guess what?
I already had the album – DOH!
It was then a couple of days before I could play it due to work commitments, and a couple of imminent album reviews.
So it was actually Christmas Eve when we got to play it while preparing vegetables for the following days dinner …… and what a stunning soundtrack it turned out to be.
Opening track Favourite Part sets the tone quite admirably with its haunting melody and backbeat while Anna’s smoky, shimmering and subtle vocals tell a rather twisted and heartbreaking tale.
I can’t think who Ms Ash reminds me of; or perhaps it’s no one in particular – who knows; but her voice is totally captivating; as (it turns out) so is her songwriting.
The next song; Popularity finds Anna slowing things down while using a wheezing organ and trumpet/cornet to supplement the usual instruments on a slow and sultry song that sounds like it’s from the Linda Ronstadt songbook; but it’s not.
Because of her singing style, many if not all of these songs may sound sad; and many are …. but dig deep and you will hear a strong and very insightful woman living her life as best she can; with Sgt. Pepper and Less Regret especially carrying a bright torch.
Back to Anna’s voice and vocal style; which is key to your enjoyment ….. there’s a delightful warble that she uses to great effect during Dress Rehearsal; but she also goes for notes outside the known stratosphere and hits them with both ease and absolute grace; which is quite some feat.
In that respect; and the subject matter too makes this quite a mature and Grown Up album which brings me to my choice of Favourite Song.
At first and probably all of the week leading up to Christmas I was probably most affected by the winsome and beautiful Violently Blue, which just seemed to suit my my mood;
“Something about how the air didn’t move‘
Cause I was talking and you were being talked to
You barely said a word just watched us crash and burn
Violently blue just like you.”
but subsequently I’ve been drawn to both Popularity and Fire Season; both of which are quite poetically and ethereal in construction and have found me going back to them and them alone several times over the last few evenings which must mean something.
Across the whole album Anna’s words and observations are nearly out of this world; none more so than in Fire Season:
“Just waiting for a day
When the pain looks around
And says man it’s you or it’s me
That’s gotta get out of here fast
Yeah but it’s a part of my story
A part of my home
It’s the smell of my middle school boyfriend’s cologne
And the sun still sets calmly
People still fall asleep with our bags at the door.”
If I’m not too mistaken there are elements of Joni Mitchell circa The Hissing of Summer Lawns and Heijra here in the way Anna Ash constructs the story and melody; occasionally daring the listener to stick with her …. or be damned.
This album certainly isn’t for everyone, simply because it’s not Easy Listening’ but if like me the sound of ‘that voice’ captivates you from the start you are in for a real and dreamy treat.