Live Review: A (Martha) Divine night with Ashley McBryde at the Roundhouse

Ashley McBryde Live Review Roundhouse London May 2022
Ashley McBryde has been wowing audiences across the UK and Ireland (photo credit: Craig Dewar)

Just eight weeks after going down a storm on the main stage at C2C, Ashley McBryde has been back in the UK and Ireland with her covid-delayed This Town Talks Tour.

Having kicked off on May 29 in Dublin, she then headed to London via Belfast and Glasgow, delighting her fans every step of the way. Alison Dewar reports.

“It’s good to see you again…my name is Ashley, these are my guys and we’re going to play a whole load of songs we made up.” With that promise, Ashley McBryde and her band went on to deliver a fabulous night of music, laughter and a few tears at the Roundhouse in London on Wednesday night (May 6).

Pure joy to be back on stage from Ashley McBryde. Ashley McBryde Live Review Roundhouse London May 2022
Ashley was clearly having fun (photo credit: Craig Dewar)

Launching straight in with Martha Divine, Radioland and Hang In There Girl, she owned the stage and her joy at being back was clear to see.

After Home Sweet Highway from 2018’s Girl Going Nowhere album, Ashley paid tribute to her support act Austin Jenckes, telling the audience it was great to be on the road with someone who loves country music. She then launched into Whiskey and Country Music, the (so far) unreleased song she debuted last year at the Grand Ole Opry. That’s one song title that needs no explanation.

Her set saw plenty of crowd favourites, American Scandal raising some of the biggest cheers and singalong sessions of the night. It prompted Ashley to confess that even though, on her first visit back in 2018, she was told to be ready for UK audiences knowing all the words, she was simply not prepared. It’s a story often told by US artists who visit these shores and it’s always one worth hearing.

New music

The most welcome news of the night was that earlier this year Ashley was busy working on record number three and she treated us to Women Ain’t Whiskey from the much-anticipated forthcoming album. Watch this space for more news as soon as it comes.

This is a lady who knows how to tug at the heartstrings just as much as she kicks ass, and never more so than with the purity of Girl Going Nowhere. Under the spotlights and with the stage to herself, this has become one of her trademark songs. It was no surprise when she confessed that the love emanating in waves from the audience was making her “choke up”.

It was touching a raw nerve time and she more than did that with a solo acoustic version of Bible and a.44 (from the 2016 Jalopies & Expensive Guitars album) bringing half the audience to tears too. Thanking her Dad for her first set of strings, messing around with the most precious guitar he then left her…you could see how much this one meant.

Check out the lyrics if you don’t know them…And if you ask me why it sounds so good
It’s cause I’m holding more than strings and wood
. …you’re a tough nut to crack if you don’t shed a tear at that.

A neat trick of Ashley’s is that she literally reaches out to someone clearly moved by the music and tonight was no different, handing out a pick and kind words of comfort to someone in the front row. Just one of the reasons why people love her so much.

Ashley’s favourite love song

After that we all needed a moment to compose ourselves, which was when Ashley brought her bandmate of 10 years-plus, acoustic guitar/mandolin player Chris Harris, back on stage to sing Damn Love as she provided the backing vocals to what she describes as her favourite love song of all time. It was great to see her taking a back seat for this one and yes, he does have an amazing voice.

The camaraderie of Ashley's band is clear to see. Ashley McBryde Live Review Roundhouse London May 2022
Ashley and her band spend 200+ days a year on the road together and their camaraderie shines through (photo credit: Craig Dewar)

With the full band returning it was time for Never Wanted to Be That Girl, her incredible duet sung and co-written with Carly Pearce (plus fellow writer and hitmaker Shane McAnally), which took home the award for music event of the year at the 2022 ACM awards.

If you’re one of the few fans who haven’t seen the video, check it out – Carly might not have been with her on stage but this beautiful song about two women on each side of a love triangle lost nothing in being told solo for once.

The Girl Going Nowhere album is the gift that keeps on giving and the evening saw Ashley show off its highlights with A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega – the first song of hers that appeared on the radio – closely followed by El Dorado (that was some guitar playing) and Tired of Being Happy.

Too many songs to mention them all, but suffice to say there were stunning and very emotive renditions of Sparrow and One Night Standards from her sophomore Never Will album, together with the album’s title track.

The crowd demanded more as Ashley returned to the stage for the encore. Ashley McBryde Live Review Roundhouse London May 2022
The crowd demanded more as Ashley returned to the stage for the encore (photo credit: Craig Dewar)

As the crowd demanded more, Ashley’s encore totally raised the roof with a cover of The Eagles’ Heartache Tonight and her own incredibly powerful Rattlesnake Preacher – why this song hasn’t appeared on an album yet is one of life’s mysteries.

Another mystery (in my humble opinion) is why anyone would want to miss out on this brilliant artist.

Do what you can to lay your hands on a ticket for one (or both) of Ashley’s last two UK shows of the tour – I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Monday May 9 – Brighton CHALK

Tuesday May 10 – Bristol The Marble Factory

Gig rating 10/10

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