Monday, June 12, 2023

Ashley Sherlock - Just A Name

He does his own thing, does Ashley Sherlock.  He’s been tagged as blues-rock, but that doesn’t feel like an entirely accurate label on the strength of Just A Name.  I mean, there’s bluesiness in there from time to time, but over the piece his style is often just a little different.
The opening track ‘Trouble’ sets out his stall pretty well, combining his keening vocals with some big, plunging chords on the chorus, in a manner that’s interesting and not derivative, set off by a
Ashley Sherlock dares to wear flares
Pic by Charlotte Wells
needling guitar solo.  There’s an angsty kinda vibe going on here that probably owes as much to rootsy pop and indie influences as to anything of a bluesy persuasion.  Think Kings Of Leon, maybe.  Or, y’know, not.
He and his bandmates Charlie Rachael Kay (bass) and Danny Rigg (drums) share all the songwriting duties, and display a liking for quiet-loud dynamics at times.  ‘I Think That She Knows’ combines twirling bass and flickering guitar notes as the foundation for Sherlock’s earnest vocal, with its occasional falsetto catch of emotion, but if the chorus feels a bit lightweight, there’s a rousing bridge to compensate, and a wobbly sounding guitar theme that prompts a tasteful, melodic solo.  And there’s light and shade in ‘Empty Street’ too, which shifts between daydreaming country-ish verses to a punchy chorus underpinned by big ringing chords that seem like a Sherlock trademark, and go well with the slight Celtic tinge to his guitar break.
There gets to be a “more of the same” pattern to some of these tunes, as on the lovelorn ballad ‘Our Love, which has more quiet vocal and shimmering guitar stuff, but without any eruptions of power; or on the meditative ‘Something’s Got To Give’, though it lives up to its title with a burst of energy for its chorus, and revs up in its second half with a frenetic guitar break.  And while the trio of songs that close the album are okay, they don’t really add much to this stylistic equation.
There are some different, better moments to be had before then though.  ‘Realise’ has a bit more edge to it, its jagged, bristling guitar chords conjuring up gritty texture rather than a distinct riff, while Sherlock chucks in a heap of falsetto.  ‘Time’ goes down a different path, with ripples of gypsy-ish acoustic guitar as the backing for a lilting vocal.  It’s an appealing tune with a straightforward, catchy chorus, and Sherlock kicks it up a notch with a couple of flurries of sparkling guitar.  And if ‘Dear Elizabeth’ is a reasonable tune that meanders a bit, it’s also elevated by some nifty guitar from Sherlock, developing a tasty theme that weaves its way back to the melody, while Kay and Rigg pack some convincing wallop on bass and drums.
This is a creditable, encouraging debut outing from Sherlock and chums, and they get extra points for developing their own distinctive sound.  A bit more emphasis on quality and variety in the songwriting department wouldn’t go amiss, but hopefully that’ll come with experience.  I’m not sure they’re really my cup of Lapsang Souchong, when all’s said and done, but Just A Name was a pleasant surprise all the same.
Just A Name is released by Ruf Records on 16 June, and can be ordered here.

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