Anna Ash Sleeper Black Mesa
My introduction to the Los Angeles based artist Anna Ash came about via her 2017 single, a cover of Lucinda Williams’ Righteously. Whereas Ms. Williams’ delivery was by way of a passionate growl, Ash slowed things down, patiently purring her way through the three minutes plus of the song. That vocal discipline and chic coolness is her trademark and it was repeated all over her 2019 album L.A. FLAME. She has a lot to say, often hard hitting, brooding and dark, but always calmly and expressly articulated. SLEEPER follows a similar template, although somewhat more soulful and menacing.
In recent years the Americana genre has become a popular staging post for recordings that would have been simply marketed as ‘soul’ in former times. SLEEPER is a welcome addition to that subgenre, though to classify it simply as soul would be an injustice. It’s certainly soulful, but much more than that, in a similar vein to the output of the eloquent Canadian artist Frazey Ford. Notes that others would not dare to attempt are effortlessly reached by Ash on the title track and Dress Rehearsal. What The Light Can Do recalls Joni Mitchell, a gentle tingling piano and backing vocals around a tale that is both delightful and distressing. More upbeat and decidedly funky is the bittersweet Favorite Part and childhood memories, both unsettling and emotional, surface on Sgt.Pepper. She also raids the memory bank, both distant and closer to home, on the deeply evocative Fire Season
Difficult to shoehorn into any particular genre, SLEEPER is simply a gorgeous listen. It merits that listen in one sitting, gifting dreamlike songs with lyrics that often enhance the mystique within the songs. Recorded live to tape over two sessions in November 2020 and April 2021, Ash was joined in the studio by Solomon Dorsey (bass, strings), Julian Allen (drums), and Jason Abraham Roberts (guitars). Her vocals and the supporting arrangements by those players combine impeccably throughout, creating eleven thought provoking songs that are well worth your attention.
Review by Declan Culliton