Ashley Campbell – Something Lovely
Something Lovely is the follow-up to the album Remembering. Missing from that album was the track of the same name, which finds a home in an acoustic form on this album. Ashley’s dad Glen passed away from Alzheimer’s and in the song she sings: ‘Daddy don’t you worry, I’ll do the remembering.’ Bring tissues.
She pays homage to dad with a cover of Good Vibrations – I expect she asked for Brian Wilson’s blessing – on which Glen played as a member of the Wrecking Crew studio and live band.
The opening track Good to Let Go, written by brother Shannon, uses some spiky guitar, rolling drums and an upwardly mobile melody to accompany Ashley’s voyage outta here with ‘your picture in the wind’. Yet on Diggin’ Deep (which has a terrific key change), she sings of ‘the hole you left behind’ and on Moonlight she ‘can’t sleep you off of my mind’.
Throughout the album, the string arrangements and acoustics are glorious, particularly on Moonlight and Suitcase Heart, where she sings in a majestic chorus of being ‘always gone before it even starts’.
Like her fellow regal daughter Rosanne Cash, Ashley knows her country music. Forever’s Not That Long could have come out in 1961 thanks to its rich fiddles, pedal steel and Steinway piano, while her instrumental Moustache Man could have emerged in the 1920s as it’s her and her godfather Carl Jackson pickin’ on banjos. If I Wasn’t sounds like The Beautiful South going noir, with Ashley’s voice floating on top of a delicious arrangement.
There’s a great pair of tracks, one on each side of the album. On the elegant title track, Ashley is a single woman in a bar asking a ‘lonely guy’ for mutual companionship set to some mellifluous nylon-stringed acoustic guitar. It is stunning and is worth the price of admission. By contrast, Walk On By has her ignoring the catcalls with a ukulele and steel guitar thrumming away as she sings ‘nothing to see here’. The rhyme of ‘victim/ symptoms’ is inspired.
Alice, meanwhile, sees her picking up the banjo again and finding her ‘Wonderland’ and not wanting ‘this dream to end’. Aww. 4/5 for a fine album which is as lovely as the title suggests.
Shannon Hynes – Country Words EP
With a similar high alto voice and tone, Shannon do a good job with many songs on Something Lovely.
From Welsh Wales, she is a regular at events for UK country fans so has plenty of friends and contacts. She has been played on Country Hits Radio by Matt Spracklen, who DJs or MCs at these events, and has been steadily building her recorded output since she released I’m Not Pretty in 2018.
Shannon has collected her singles on the Country Words EP which is only available in physical form at ShannonHynes.com, priced £7. I’ve always liked I’m Not Pretty, especially the mention of how ‘blusher keeps the cheeks pink’, while Country Words impressed me from the first time I heard it when Shannon and I were writing and jamming together.
The variety of the seven tracks are impressive. Comfort uses some pedal steel to underscore that mood. Off Guard is a shiny pop song and Someone To Drink With is a sombre tune about wanting to ‘drown the silence out’. Shannon has included the unplugged version of Mother on the EP, on which she plays piano and sings of how important maternal love is to a daughter and vice versa. There is an additional track, Fear Blinds Me, a plea to a loved one.
4/5 for the EP, which shows immense potential and also the depth of talent in the UK’s country movement.