“Curioser and curioser” said Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, and now I kind of know that feeling.
I had to listen to Ashley McBryde’s new album several times before I grew into it. Here’s a tip – it really didn’t work for me listening in the car, I think you need proper quiet time out to listen to the lyrics, at least to start with.
For those that don’t know already, it’s a trip around the residents of the fictional town of Lindeville, named in a nod to legendary Nashville songwriter Dennis Linde (Goodbye Earl, Burning Love and more).
Conceived in a rural cabin outside Nashville after what is described as a week-long songwriting exercise between Ashley and her fellow collaborators, it is notable not least for the fact that Ashley doesn’t actually sing on some of the tracks.
She does however step up on two of my favourites – effectively little advertising ‘ditties’ for Lindeville’s businesses, who could not love Ronnie’s Pawn Shop and the Forkem Family Funeral Home – completely bonkers, but in a good way.
The 13-track album, which was released September 30 via Warner Music Nashville, was produced by John Osborne (of Brothers Osborne fame) and includes performances from Ashley and Brothers Osborne, together with Brandy Clark, Aaron Raitiere, Pillbox Patti (aka Nicolette Hayford), Caylee Hammack and Benjy Davis.
“A few years ago, Aaron, Nicolette and I were on a write,” says Ashley. “We wrote this song called ‘Blackout Betty,’ and I realised we had written previous songs called ‘Shut Up Sheila’ on Never Will and ‘Livin’ Next to Leroy’ on Girl Going Nowhere. Aaron had a song called ‘Jesus, Jenny,’ and I thought, ‘We should keep these characters together and give them a place to live!’
“Not long after that, I thought, ‘What if we call it Lindeville?’ in honour of Dennis Linde. I want to lock six writers in a house and just spend six- or seven-days writing. We stayed in Tennessee in this little house close to a lake. It was eight bottles of tequila, two cartons of cigarettes, one kitchen table and six individuals out of their minds.”
Together they drew from their own upbringings to give Lindeville an every-town realism blended with familiar characters, moral ambiguity and a healthy enough dose of gallows humour to make this town feel like your town.
John Osborne explained: “This is technically the first full-length album that I’ve produced by myself. One of the things I tried to do was capture each character as a performance. I listened to each song, and I wrestled with it for a while. Do I want to make the songs sound the same? Make it sound like it’s all done in one room on one day?
“And then I thought to myself, ‘Each song has to represent not only a different character, but a different emotion and a different story.’ There is certainly continuity between the tracks – we have vocalists and mostly the same musicians on every song. But I decided to take different approaches to each song because it needed to represent the story.”
“I just hope that when a few, even just a handful, of people listen to the record and it ends with the line ‘Nothing but stars over Lindeville,’ they put their hands over their heart and say, ‘What a nice trip that was,’” adds Ashley.
“And for the whole running time of the record, nothing else had to matter. You got to focus on other people’s drama and other people’s problems and got the reminder that everything’s all right.”
So, given they set out to make an album about a fictional town – what does Lindeville give us? It’s fair to say there’s a cast of characters far too many to mention here.
Brenda Put Your Bra On sets the irreverent tone – the line ‘She always got them good shifts just cuz she had good tits’ is bar-room banter brought to life by some of the best singer-songwriters in the business having fun.
Jesus Jenny, performed by Aaron Raitiere and written by him alongside Jon Decious, will get inside your head; while If These Dogs Could Talk performed by Brandy Clark, is a haunting beauty of a song with more than a flavour of bluegrass, telling the story of the secrets that dogs keep – keep an ear out for an appearance by the aforementioned Leroy.
It’s difficult to pick favourites from this album because the songs are all so quirky and individual and I’m not going to dissect them all one by one – I wouldn’t be so brave!
What I will say is that Play Ball is just fabulous. While John Osborne was getting on with the producing (as well as background vocals), his brother TJ brought his own magical voice to this song and I guarantee you will fall in love with both the production and the simplicity of life for a man named Pete. Sit back and let the words wrap themselves around you like a warm drink on a winter’s day.
The third track from the end is the Phil Everly classic When Will I Be Loved performed by Ashley McBryde, Brandy Clark, Caylee Hammack and Pillbox Patti. On the face of it, including a cover it might seem like an odd addition – but the words ‘I’ve been cheated, been mistreated…When will I be loved’ perfectly set the scene for the brilliant Bonfire at Tina’s.
It’s a cracker of a song about ‘small town women’ and how they’re not built to get along, but put those perceptions aside, this is one group of women you wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of. Just ask Tina how much she enjoyed the girls taking revenge – check out the video to see what I mean.
The final spot on the album goes to Lindeville and as Ashley puts the town to bed for the night she sings that line….’There’s nothing but stars over Lindeville’.
I think there’ll be plenty of stars from the fans for this most unusual of albums. Ashley has already said in interviews that this is something of a detour, as opposed to her ‘actual’ third album, but I can’t wait to see what the residents of Lindeville do next!
Ashley McBryde Presents: Lindeville Tracklist
All songs written by Ashley McBryde, Aaron Raitiere, Connie Harrington, Brandy Clark, Benjy Davis and Nicolette Hayford unless noted otherwise.
- Brenda Put Your Bra On feat. Caylee Hammack & Pillbox Patti
- Jesus Jenny feat. Aaron Raitiere (Aaron Raitiere and Jon Decious)
- Dandelion Diner
- The Girl In The Picture feat. Pillbox Patti
- If These Dogs Could Talk feat. Brandy Clark
- Play Ball feat. Brothers Osborne
- Ronnie’s Pawn Shop
- The Missed Connection Section of the Lindeville Gazette feat. Brandy Clark & Aaron Raitiere
- Gospel Night At The Strip Club feat. Benjy Davis
- Forkem Family Funeral Home
- When Will I Be Loved feat. Brandy Clark, Caylee Hammack, & Pillbox Patti (Phil Everly)
- Bonfire At Tina’s feat. Caylee Hammack, Brandy Clark, & Pillbox Patti