Music SA - Album Review 2013 (Blue Highways)

2013 LP "Blue Highways" - Acoustic, Alt. Country, Covers, Originals, Roots

Another day, another delivery. The CDs are piling up faster than I can restock the whiskey bar in Chateau Bones. Oh but to be a slave to the music things aren’t all that bad. In actual fact it is pleasant because every CD that is delivered on my door step is of South Australian origin and to see so many well produced local albums coming though warms the cockles of even this old cynic's heart.

The latest delivery is ‘Blue Highways' by Steve Ashley; now I hadn’t come across Steve before now but he endeared himself immediately by including a great little bio/press release with the CD, enabling me to find out a little more info. FURTHERMORE, presumably knowing most reviewers' predilection to reviewing cds after a couple of red wines/whiskeys, he was wise enough to laminate this press release. Fancy.

Now Steve has been around for quite some time presumably. As per his press release, he first gained industry recognition in the '90s with a songwriting and performance award from SCALA (Songwriters, Composers and Lyricists Association). He also has some varied influences with the likes of Paul Kelly, Beatles and Crowded House getting a nod.

Inserting the shiny fresh disc into the cosmic destruction player (nice artwork, by the way), my ears were immediately pricked. There are few sounds that whet this reviewer’s appetite for music more so than a well-played banjo and a well-played acoustic guitar, and Steve hits that nerve straight away.

The songs are all relaxed country/folk numbers never containing a sense of urgency but definitely a sense of comfort. The tracks are lush with great playing and great instrumentation but no overcrowding of what each song is trying to achieve. The overall instrumentation is pro no doubt about it, but something that endears it is the occasional fret buzz and bung note. Nothing bad, and to my ears refreshing to hear. So many musicians in this day and age (listen to me sounding like a seventy year old blues man, I’m twenty nine for those playing at home) use electronics to remove all this and make their recordings note perfect. In many circumstances this works, but for me when little ‘real’ things happen if they are minor it gives the track more heart and more soul.

Steve’s vocal throughout is restrained but soulful. Calm and contained. It gives that sense as all of the great country and blues musicians do that yeah, they’ve lived what they’re singing. "Yeah it was tough at times, but you know what? I’m cool with that."

Overall this is a great album and I hope Steve does well with it. I personally am looking forward to keeping an eye out for Steve’s next gig and making sure I’m front row and centre.