Ashley Sherlock | Just A Name Review
by Elberton Cisnero
With a fusion of old and new, Just A Name by Ashley Sherlock and his tight-knit trio not only emerges as a compelling debut but also as a new voice that commands attention within the blues-rock landscape. The honesty in the music production process, coupled with Sherlock’s evident gift for melding classic blues influences with contemporary rock energy, imbues the album with an engaging authenticity.
Sherlock’s guitar work is undoubtedly the centerpiece of Just A Name. From the rhythmic energy of “Trouble” to the emotional depth in “Dear Elizabeth,” his articulate fretwork navigates through blues, rock, pop, soul, and more, demonstrating a fluid mastery over his craft. His influences ranging from Guns’ N Roses to Jeff Buckley, shaped the sound but were never overbearing, allowing his unique voice as a guitarist to emerge as an equal partner to his vocals.
The rhythm section, composed of Charlie Rachael Kay on bass and Danny Rigg on drums, offers robust support, synchronizing with Sherlock’s guitar to create a dynamic landscape. Tracks like “Realise” showcase their solid interplay, crafting grooves that are both accessible and deeply engaging.
Lyrically, the album is a cohesive narrative that delves into the intricacies of love, loss, personal growth, and the struggles of artistic identity, creating an underlying thread that connects the songs and adds depth to the listening experience. Sherlock’s reflective and sometimes rueful voice creates a powerful resonance with the listener. Songs like “Empty Street” and “Last Call” offer both personal introspection and universal truths, capturing the essence of relationships and self-acceptance.
The circumstances of recording the album – in the dead of winter, in the attic of an old English cotton mill – contribute to a sense of raw authenticity that permeates through the tracks. The bite of the winter chill and the rustic ambiance of the creaking old cotton mill certainly inspired the trio, each icy breath and resonating footstep fueling their creativity as they built the energy of each song through the recording process.
What sets Just A Name apart is its willingness to explore and bend genre boundaries. While firmly rooted in the traditions of blues and rock, Sherlock and his bandmates are unafraid to infuse elements of hard rock, pop, and soul. Whether it’s the Wild West rhythm of “Time” or the intimate crescendo of “Empty Street,” the album offers fresh twists on classic themes.
The album doesn’t shy away from paying homage to its influences, but it also makes clear that Sherlock is an artist with a unique vision. He’s not merely replicating the sounds of his idols; he’s conversing with them, adding his voice to a rich and ongoing musical dialogue.
“Trouble” opens the gate with an electrifying mix of rock and blues, Sherlock’s powerful falsetto and articulate guitar work driving the track. The composition’s structural complexity, the interplay between the instruments, and Sherlock’s dexterity in maneuvering his guitar tone and vocal inflection narrate an exhilarating musical journey as they merge to become one unified vehicle for Sherlock’s expression of musical passion. The controlled chaos of the solo, drawn from the blues-rock tradition, serves not only as a climactic point but also as an embodiment of the raw emotion and energy of the piece. Kay and Rigg provide the right amount of support, balance, and texture, grounding Sherlock’s flights of musical fancy.
“Dear Elizabeth,” on the other hand, is an emotionally resonant ode that unfolds with grace and intensity. The song’s thematic core, a heartfelt message to a lost friend, is beautifully encapsulated in the music. Sherlock stomps on the Wah-Wah pedal for a subtle addition of expression, and he delivers an impressive solo based on repeating motifs and a climactic rhythmic figure, augmented by Kay and Rigg, which builds towards the last chorus. The track is thoughtfully crafted, with each section building upon the next, culminating in a poignant solo that serves as the emotional pinnacle. The band’s collective dynamics and sonic textures highlight their attentiveness to detail and their ability to emotionally connect with the listener.
In both pieces, one can observe a deep understanding of musical tradition coupled with a willingness to explore and innovate. The compositions exemplify not only technical mastery but also a profound connection between the musicians, their instruments, and the thematic content they wish to convey. These two tracks set the stage for what promises to be a compelling musical experience throughout the rest of the album. Whether it’s the stormy energy of “Trouble” or the longing sentiment of “Dear Elizabeth,” Sherlock, Kay, and Rigg blend traditional rock and blues elements with contemporary rock sensibilities, creating music that resonates on multiple levels.
Ashley Sherlock’s debut album Just A Name is a solid contribution to the contemporary blues-rock landscape. With skillful musicianship, poignant songwriting, and a willingness to innovate within the tradition, it marks Sherlock as an artist to watch. While the album has its roots in well-trodden musical paths, Sherlock’s fresh approach resonates with the spirit of the blues but revitalizes it with a modern sensibility. A highly recommended listen for aficionados of blues-rock and those seeking a new voice in a timeless genre. Indeed, Just A Name is far more than a title; it’s a declaration of an artist who has arrived with a voice all his own.
Have you experienced the fusion of tradition and innovation in Just A Name? We invite you to share your thoughts on Ashley Sherlock’s debut and join us in exploring new voices in blues-rock.
Release Date: June 16, 2023
Label: Ruf Records GmbH