I had the pleasure of listening and meeting Johnny Ashby at my old job when he came in to film a video for one of our clients. Despite the fact that he played the same song four or five times to a small office of people, there wasn’t a moment where he didn’t have an audience of employees gathered around taking it in. Born in the UK, his sound is uniquely rich in the folk era of the 1960’s and 70’s, counting artists like Paul Simon, Bob Dylan and Fleetwood Mac among his many influences. He is thoughtful about not losing himself in the past, layering his songwriting with emotional stories and building a rich, almost Americana feel into his tracks. Every song on his EP “The Cannonball Days” is built on simplistic melodies with honest stories, the kind that you just never get tired of hearing. The entire EP is a journey back in time, whether to a relationship or the hot summer days of your child hood, he has an undeniable ability to write beautifully authentic stories.
His newest single, “Back in 1993” is a sentimental track that explores the sadness that floats to the surface when you’re reflecting on the happy moments of your youth. For those of you that remember riding in the backseat of the car fighting with your siblings on long roadtrips, or losing yourself in your discman in an effort to ignore your parents, this song will ring true. Ashby captures that yearning for those carefree days, full of hope and exploration, while remaining distinctly thankful for each memory. It immediately captured my attention when I heard it, pulling me from my desk to set up camp behind the production, as if to make sure I was hearing something as good as it was. And it was. It was that good.
It helps that Ashby possesses one of those infectious, gritty voices worthy not only of applause, but of the repeat button. “Two Hearts On The Run” combines that poetic Bob Dylan flavor with John Mayer sensitivity. If ever there was a way to wrap the feeling of falling in love into a sweet, free falling melody; Johnny accomplished it on this track. It stands out as one of my favorites, making me wish for warmer days driving in the car with people whose company I most enjoy.
The listless guitar rambles on as the intro to “Cannonball Days” begins, the theme of reflection continues right on into the chorus, while Ashby explores that disheartening feeling of saying goodbye to the past.Everything about this EP speaks to the human ability to hold on to our past almost to our detriment, keeping us from exploring other areas outside of our comfort zone. But Ashby has a unique talent for twisting his mood in the most flattering of ways; one moment uncertain and subtle, the next hopefully and exploratory. The transition from one mood to the next are his best moments on an EP lush with little sparks of excitement.
The wind it blows a silence through my head, it echos ‘cross the valley to my soul. Then there’s “Old & Grey,” which brings the entire EP full circle. It’s one of those stunning moments that encompasses the breadth of Ashby’s talent, his brilliant use of imagery as it relates to emotion, something that makes music such a strong influence on so many lives. While many of the tracks focus on memories and moments, this song is a testament to pushing forward and living those YOLO moments with every breath you have in you.
I can’t sing the praises of Johnny Ashby enough. Every single track, including the bonus “Song For A Troubadour,” are well crafted almost in-spite of their simplicity. From the lyrics to the instrumentation, this is an artist who has a firm grasp on who he is and a strong musical vision to share with the world. If you do one thing this month, be sure to pick-up Johnny Ashby’s “Cannonball Days” the moment it comes out on March 23rd, 2015.
What do you think of Johnny Ashby? Will you be picking up his album? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me, @JukeboxMixtape!