Sheryl Crow’s got a new album out soon, but judging by the lead single it’s going to be slushy, sentimental pap. Shame, as she used to be one of the leading singer songwriters who could comfortably straddle the country/rock divide. Of course, since the peak of her powers Nashville’s been revitalised, bluegrass has become mainstream, and Crow has frankly, gone off the boil.
Which brings me to Ashleigh Flynn – a Kentucky lass raised on bluegrass – whose third album, American Dream (2008), saw her arrive on the national US scene and opening for the likes of Todd Snider, Nanci Griffin, John Hiatt, Shawn Colvin and the like. Her fourth studio album A Million Stars, will hopefully expose her to an even wider audience.
At first I was a little perplexed by the juxtaposition of folk, blues, country, vintage jazz, bluegrass and rock, but after a few listens it charms its way past your defences and settles itself itself down for the long haul.
Produced by long term friend, collaborator and multi instrumentalist Chris Funk from indie folk/rock band The Decemberists who adds banjo, pedal steel, dobro, electric guitar, autoharp, ukulele, Nashville strung guitar, and mandolin as well as organs, bass, drums, percussion and string arrangements, A Million Stars also features The Decemberists rhythm section of Nate Query and John Moen, as well as a host of guests.
The album’s twelve tracks represent some of the best Americana you’ll hear this year from the title track chronicling the story of Cattle Annie and Littles Britches, two cowgirls who rode the outlaw trails in the late 1800s, to the marvellous rock out tale of Annie Oakley – How The West Was Won, it’s a riveting ride that should appeal to both purists and those seeking some crossover magic. Rather charming. ****
Review by Pete Whalley
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