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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Ashley Davis - Night Travels

Ashley Davis – Night Travels
2014, Ashley Davis

Ashley Davis is both prospector and pioneer.  Born in the Kansas plains, her musical indoctrination was hued by the sounds and styles of country music, with dashes of Appalachian folk added in for spice.  As a musician she has tended to pursue both styles’ musical progenitor, Celtic music.  With a well-worn passport that’s scene Ireland and Scotland many times over, Davis has built a reputation in the Celtic music community.  Her collaboration with Moya Brennan, Eileen Ivers, The Chieftains, John Doyle and Cormac De Barra reflect the quality of both Davis’ songwriting and musicianship, as well as her willingness to wear away stylistic boundaries and explore new ground.  On May 13, 2014, Davis will release her fourth album, Night Travels, with the same adventuresome spirit that has marked her previous works.

Davis opens Night Travels with “His Bride I’ll Be”, a beautiful and intricately simple arrangement.  Ashley Davis presents with a warm and polished vocal sound that’s as deep as night and guest vocalist Sara Watkins is a pleasant contrast with her young and wilder vocal tone.  This is a gorgeous pairing, and a stunning way to start an album.  “I Follow You” has a lulling feel, pairing Davis’ gorgeous voice with a meticulously smooth arrangement.  The rolling feel of the song gives the impression of the small waves of a windless shoreline.  Davis pairs with John Doyle to interpret the classic ballad “Barbara Allen”, and together they bring the heartbreaking tale of love lost to life.  The approach her is understated yet emotive, and brings the power of the song to new levels.  “Night Travels” is very smooth with great energy, but perhaps doesn’t impress as much as you might expect from a title track.

“The Blackest Crow” is a mournful love song that explores parting and the impending heartbreak in articulate, evocative poetry.  The melody is an equally adept partner here, creating a wash of love, trepidation and sadness that you can’t avoid being swept up in.  “With You Tonight” features the violin talents of Eileen Ivers, who’s dancing violin is the perfect counterpart to Davis’ lyric vocals.  “In The Blue” is a pretty thought somewhat nondescript waltz.  Moya Brennan shares vocals with Davis on “Beside You Near” in a performance that almost sounds like mother and daughter.  Brennan’s vibrato-laden voice gives the impression of age and wisdom against the smooth careful presentation that Davis brings. 

Davis gets upbeat on “Alone With Me”, an ear-pleasing love song with great energy that’s among the best offerings on the album.  “Horses” takes on a more theatrical feel; a soliloquy on trust and love lost and the consequences that follow.  Davis closes out with “Dreams Will Come”, a sweet but somehow labored sounding closer that does little to hurt the overall impression Davis has made, but still is perhaps not the best closing thought. 

Ashley Davis mines the genres of folk, American, Country and Celtic music on Night Travels.  As with mining, every vein is different, and there is the occasional miss, but Night Travels taken as a whole is a thing of beauty.  Davis’ voice is warm and beautiful and thoroughly inviting, and the arrangements on Night Travels are full of an understated beauty.  The list of impressive guests adds to the diverse sound and styles of the album, and Davis has created a song cycle you’ll be happy to visit again and again.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

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