This is a little bit difficult for me. Today I am sharing an album that I’ve honestly had in my possession for a while. I’ve been enjoying it, taking it in, and mulling it over. It has spoken to my soul very deeply and I am a little possessive of it. I am reluctant to share it but torn because I also want the world to experience the talent that has gone into its making.
I’ve written about Ashley Raines before. The fact is that I just love him. I find his music to be so real and inspiring. It’s muddy, dark, stormy and skillful. His voice is like the coffee that I get at my favorite place downtown. Pure, dark, familiar, and strong enough to keep me awake for days just pacing, and writing, and watching the rain. It’s sleeting outside now and this is the perfect album for it. But it is also the perfect album for when the sun is shining and you are driving down the highway with your arm out of the window. It is the perfect album for brooding over dish washing and for lying on your back with some kind of emotion sitting heavy on your chest.
Mr. Raines has been travelling this country for years and has never stopped making music.
“After the Bruising” is my favorite of Mr. Raines albums so far. It is one of my favorite albums ever. The opening notes of “Born in the Flood” send shivers down my spine. The poetry of the lyrics melts into the guitar, the voice. The words explore the part of your identity tied to your birth. They create a film of a child born in a wild time, growing to be a person with a stormy soul.
The title track is quiet. The lyrics are a warning, a warning about life–how to live, what to stay away from. “You don’t make a promise you can’t keep with your hands, you don’t find salvation in the hearts of men, and love doesn’t buy you the things that you need.” The tune sounds like almost like a lullaby. Mr. Raines voice is gentle and jagged. It catches on the cracks of the words hanging there, infusing them with emotion and history.
“Daddy Knows Best” brings tears to my eyes. The simplicity of the song, the vocals rising, lifting, falling gently. It’s so beautiful. The lyrics are full of love and desire for something better.
“What it Took” just makes my eyes close. It takes me to another place. I’m watching the Garden of the Gods pass me by, I’m hearing this advice, these stories. They’re for me, from him. I want them all, I want more.
The whole album is full of rhythmic guitar, rhythmic voice, and the timeless, lilting accompaniment of a violin. No track is more rhythmic or timeless than “You’re All In”. It is just incredible the range of sounds in this song. The complexity of the music is only made more incredible by its actual simplicity.
“Come hell or high water, come wind, rain, or snow. I’m coming ‘cross the valley carryin’ a heavy load. From the Son until the Father, down that dark and lonely road, I’m drawing lines down in the sand, I cut the fat off of the land.” This song, this album is as close to a religious experience as I’ve had with music in the last year. I’ve been dragging this review out for days and am still not sure that I want to share. Every song sits in my chest, drifts around my head. I am overwhelmed by the simplicity and beauty. Raines’ voice is like a campfire, like whiskey and wild honey, like sitting in a meadow of columbine and sable lilies watching a storm roll in. This is the kind of music that makes you see the little emptinesses inside of you and realize that you are mostly alright with them being there. I offer my humblest thanks to Mr. Raines for making this album. I hope that I will meet him one day, hear him play, be in the same room, lean against the wall and close my eyes while his hands keep time and his voice tells the stories.