Ashley Raines: “I’ll Fight”

One of my favorite musicians has gifted the world with more beautiful music.  Ashley Raines’ latest EP covers songs from artists like The Kinks, Wilco, and Bob Dylan.  Before you write this off as another cover album, hear me out–this EP is a work of art with all the depth and grit that I have come to adore receiving from Mr. Raines.  His adoptions of these songs doesn’t breathe new life into them because that isn’t necessary.  None of them are lacking in life to begin with.  Rather, he turns the songs around to see them from a different angle, in a different light.  The same words, the same music, telling a completely different story.

The album begins with David Baerwald’s “Bitter Tree”.  Baerwald’s song is somber. It feels like a campfire, men gathered around, telling sad stories.  Raines version is dry, less country, more desert.  I love the whispery guitar and the depth of Raines storytelling. The song changes midway, the beat picks up, drops down, picks up again.  This song keeps me still.  It keeps my ears straining for the story, the emotions.

“All the tired horses in the sun. How am I gonna get any riding done?”  Dylan’s song ambles along some bright and hopeful finger picking and a strong, wooden beat.  This song feels like sunshine.  There is no stress in the music, no real question.

The title track (by Wilco) is my favorite on this album.  Something catches in Raines voice with every proclamation.  I believe him.  The guitar follows the vocals around being complex and sweet.  I love the complexity of the original song–all of those harmonies–but there is something really honest and emotive about this stripped down version.  It’s raw and naked.  Raines voice is bitter and dirty.  The guitar is golden and sweet as honey. Together they create a really beautiful thing.

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