Ashley Heath and Her Heathens Take Us to Where Hope Never Dies With New Album
With a voice that’s too light to be husky, but too heavy to be ethereal, Ashley Heath strikes a balance that’s a little bit sultry, a little bit sorrowful, and completely, as well as lushly, ambrosial. Her voice is like a warm glove, a lover’s touch, and a heavenly embrace from a loved one all at once.
Yeah, you can probably tell already that I’m smitten with Ashley’s vocal delivery.
Amazingly though, there is so much more to Ashley Heath, not the least of which are Her Heathens, her bluesy, earthy, and deeply rooted in Americana backing band. Together they have recorded one of the best Americana albums I’ve heard in quite a while. Where Hope Never Dies might be a scant five songs long, but it packs more into its short run time than just about any other album you’ll hear this year from a band, and singer, as talented as this in this genre.
Heaven and Earth. Light and dark. Thick and thin. It’s when these types of tensions wrestle, grapple, and intertwine with each other that the best art is often produced. Ashley’s heavenly voice when juxtaposed against her band’s thick, earthen, guitar tones form a harmonic, and beautiful, tension that is so subtle that you only become aware the deeper you listen. Once you hear it though, you cannot unhear it, and you won’t ever want to. You’ll only want to revisit it again and again. That’s another sign of great art in music.
It gets better, and more rewarding, with each listen.
Let’s cut right to the heart of Where Hope Never Dies and take a deeper listen to the album’s beating heart, “We’ll Be Angels.” Opening with a gospel refrain from Ashley, “When I go to my home/I will praise the Lord/Walk through Heaven’s door/Walk through Heaven’s door,” delivered in her best, and most sublime, tone, “We’ll Be Angels” heavenly vibe is immediately smothered by a melodically soggy, nearly silt laden, and completely earth toned riff, grounding Ashley, and the listener firmly on Earth. It’s as if the guitar plays the role of the muddy roots holding the heavenward striving voice down, but not in a grasping, grabbing manner. Ashley is being held earthbound by the reality of her situation, not the violence of it, while all the while still striving to rise above, but not quite breaking free. After all, Ashley sings “when I go to my home” not “as I’m in my home (Heaven).” Together Ashley and her band form that beautiful tension that is Heaven and Earth, in sweet conjunction, even if pulling away at one another at the same time, in the same song. That’s some mighty fine songwriting, that makes for some might fine listening, if you ask me.
The blues are a beautiful sorrow, and at times on Where Hope Never Dies, Ashley and Her Heathens capture this oxymoron perfectly. The tinge of Appalachian sorrow in her voice, that’s at the same time dyed in hope, makes “Same Ol’ Blue,” with its retro sound, sound both familiar and new at the same time. “Same Ol’ Blue” is what Patsy Cline would have sounded like if she sang the blues. It’s this mixing of roots/Americana sounds that makes Ashley Heath and Her Heathens’ sound so compelling and interesting. Throughout Where Hope Never Dies, Ashley and her band expand upon what made tracks like “Maybe” off of A Different Stream such great listens. “Maybe” mixed country twang with a rock guitar heaviness that recalled a gentle Southern summer’s afternoon thunder followed up by a gentle rainstorm of a solo that moved the song from country to rock and back again all within the span of 3 minutes and 44 seconds.
I found myself doing that exact same thing with all the songs on Where Hope Never Dies, and I have no doubt you will too when the album drops next month.
Ashley Heath and Her Heathens sophomore album drops 4/6/18. Get it here when it releases.