EP review: ASHLEY SHERLOCK– If You’re Listening

Pete Feenstra chatted to Ashley Sherlock about the EP and his music for Get Ready to ROCK! Radio.  First broadcast 15 August 2021. 

Ashley Sherlock - If You're Listening

Self Release [Release date 09.07.21]

Ashley Sherlock is a passionate singer-songwriter who fronts a powerful roots and rock-blues into Americana power trio.

This is a booming rock band with songs that demand greater a musical landscape than merely recycled rock.

Sherlock has a versatile vocal style that brings colour and personality to his songs, while his guitar chops and heartfelt narratives are realized over fast changing musical genres, sometimes within the same song.

From the minimalist art work to the quiet-to-loud rock dynamics that carry the album as a whole, this is broad based music with a contemporary appeal.

There’s a melange of classic rock, grunge, rock-blues, southern rock, country and Americana, all of which all facilitate a sense of flow.

There’s also a palpable sense of the familiar, from the pregnant pause leading into the hook of the opening ‘If You’re Listening’ to the almost aptly titled caveman stomp of ‘Been Here Before’.

His saving grace is simply the wide variety of the music he chooses to explore and the fact he never overstays his welcome, as highlighted by several short tracks with sudden endings.

Both ‘If You’re Listening’, ‘Cant Help Myself’ and the closing ‘Invincible’ all make their mark and then suddenly stop. And having generated enough emotional intensity and anthemic bluster, the sudden silence gives way to a void that leaves you wanting more.

There may be only 6 tracks here, but you can’t help but thinking that he’s got plenty more in his locker.

‘If You’re Listening’ is an intricately woven, almost understated set, but happily he relies on his rocking instincts, as evidenced by the booming riffs of ‘Been Here Before’ which mixes old school retro rock with a Muse style electronic finish.

Then there’s ‘Invincible’, a slow building power ballad full of a chiming guitar, a piano motif and his own tremulous voice. He sets out the thematic chorus and eventually soars over the band as they collectively reach for an anthemic resolution.

Sherlock strikes the perfect balance between introspection and defiance, framed by Grigg’s wall of sound production, before a sudden drop down and fade.

Ultimately it’s the way he wraps his songs with an emotional honesty and vulnerability from the opening title track to the EP’s big finish that marks him out as different.

He also revels in skipping across genres to support his narratives. Listen for example, to the way the band locks into the funky rhythmic groove of ‘Alive’, generated by lush mellifluous bass lines and warm harmonies. His own subtle tonal textures suggest you are in the presence of a musician at ease with himself and his musical parameters.

And though the 6 tracks are anchored by Sherlock’s song craft and the fact he never wastes a line while giving full vent to his versatile timbre, this is still very much a band effort.

His rhythm section of fluid bassist Charlie Kay and drummer/producer Danny Rigg, pushes him to the max. Rigg’s raw power infuses the songs with purpose and drive, while Kay provides the perfect foil to smooth out the edges.

Everything feels well balanced, but still musically open-ended enough to suggest they are reticent to make a final decision as to their definitive musical direction.

The train-time country feel of Can’t Help Me’ is a very good reason why. It’s almost a tongue in cheek big twang groove, but infectious enough not to be discarded.

The very fact they are still exploring their musical contours might explain the EP/CD format rather than a potential full debut album.

Perhaps it’s their sense of spontaneity and the feeling of “what if” that will keep us guessing for a little while longer.

Meanwhile Ashley Sherlock has made significant sophomore EP. He’s made a splash and put himself out there to see:  “If You’re Listening.”

The rest it seems is up to us?  ****

Review by Pete Feenstra 

Josh Taerk’s latest Sunday Session was streamed on Sunday 20 March 2022 at 21:00 GMT (16:00 EST). Josh’s next session is Sunday 22 May.

Check out previous videos here: https://www.facebook.com/getreadytorockradio

David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 GMT, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 8 May 2022.

UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020 and 2021 Finalist) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 GMT as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 3 May 2022.

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