Album review: Ashley McBryde – The Devil I Know

Ashley McBryde’s new album drops tomorrow

Ashley McBryde’s long-awaited new album The Devil I Know, is out tomorrow (September 8) via Warner Music Nashville, and it certainly packs a punch.

Over the past few months, fans will have become familiar with several of the songs already released from this 11-track record, but the beauty of this new collection is that together they become so much more than just the sum of their parts.

Ashley has never been afraid to tell it like it is and she has a huge ability to use her words and those of her fellow writers to paint pictures that could grace the walls of any gallery.

With writing credits on every song and calling on familiar co-writers like Nicolette Hayford and Aaron Raitiere, she mixes it up with collaborations from the likes of John Osborne (who produced last year’s Ashley McBryde Presents: Lindeville), Lainey Wilson, Jessi Alexander and Hillary Lindsey.

Grabbing your attention right from the start, Made For This comes crashing through the door – a raw and rocky homage to life on the road, waiting for that big break while your ‘dressing room is a bathroom stall’ and, as she says…’you’ve gotta be made for this…’. If you haven’t already seen it, then check out her web series of the same name about life on tour.

After the full blast arrival of the first track, Ashley dials down the rock for Coldest Beer in Town, one of the newbies – a story of heartache with a touch of bluegrass – while the high energy of the next newcomer Women Ain’t Whiskey feels like a true Ashley anthem.

Lead single Light On In The Kitchen, listed at number three, was released as far back as February, and has been steadily climbing the US charts ever since. In this context, it sits neatly amid its rockier cousins, its gentle harmonies and homilies paying tribute to the important women in her life who have shared motherly advice and comfort around the kitchen table.

Summer single release Learned To Lie was, by her own admission, a ‘hard one’ to write and a ‘hard one’ to hear, a down-to-earth story revealing more than a few of her family secrets as she was growing up.

Title track, The Devil I Know, is planted right smack in the middle of the track list, a rock anthem song about not listening to the folk that want to change you and why it’s better to stick to the devil you know. I think we can all relate to that.

What then of Single At The Same Time, an ode to lost love, a touching song about ‘what could have been’ if the lead players had been single at the same time. This is one for those who still hold a flame in the corner of their hearts for the one that got away, even if we’re happy now… just beautiful.

Cool Little Bars (brilliant authentic intro) pays tribute to the ‘dive bars and holes in the wall’ that were the formative years of her career and Ashley acknowledges they stood her in good stead, saying: “As y’all know, I have a huge appreciation for bars that have stood the test of time and have a lot of character.

“With the help of Trick Savage and Lainey Wilson, I think we said it pretty good. So, thank you for dart boards, sticky table tops, bathrooms with broken stall doors and bartenders that can mix a drink while whoopin’ an ass. We see you and we need you. God bless cool little bars.”

Three of the new tracks are saved as special treats for the end of the album.

Whiskey and Country Music turns the volume back up and is a nod to good ‘old-fashioned’ country music with nods to Patsy (Cline) and plenty of pedal steel guitar. No doubt this will be a firm crowd favourite, as will the aptly-named Blackout Betty, a loud rock-influenced song about overdoing it in style, too much smoking, too much booze…you name it, it’s in there.

For the final track, Ashley reunites with Blue Foley and CJ Foley – both previous writing collaborators – including on the Grammy-nominated Home Sweet Highway, from the Girl Going Nowhere album.

6th Of October is a thoughtful, tender and empowering song that talks of reckless hearts, of not being ashamed of our scars, of who we are…it’s a track to make you think, that drops you from a great height at the end, and I guarantee will stay in your head long after the music has died away.

What the artist says about the new album:

“When it was time to put together The Devil I Know, my band and I did what we always do: got together in the purple building in East Nashville, played through a bunch of songs and discussed where we wanted it to go,” she says. “We decided to take all the things that people tend to give us a hard time for and turn it up.
“‘Y’all are too country.’ We leaned into that – more country it is. ‘Y’all are awfully rock leaning for a country artist.’ Is that so? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet. ‘Last thing y’all need is another tender, finger pickin’ song.’ Oh? Tender makes you uneasy, cowboy? I hear you. Let’s see how much more tender we can be. We listened to all those opinions and said, ‘I hear you. I understand what you’re saying.’ But sadly, there’s no room on the record for your opinion. We’ll do what we want.”

What we say about the new album:

WOW. This is a true Ashley McBryde masterpiece, giving everything we love about her and more. A definite contender in our books for album of the year. With her UK January tour coming up, if you haven’t bagged yourself a ticket already, you should.

The Devil I Know Track List:

  1. Made For This (Ashley McBryde and Travis Meadows)
  2. Coldest Beer in Town (Ashley McBryde, Autumn McEntire and Nicolette Hayford)
  3. Light On In The Kitchen (Ashley McBryde, Jessi Alexander and Connie Harrington)
  4. Women Ain’t Whiskey (Ashley McBryde, Hillary Lindsey, Jon Nite and Chris LaCorte)
  5. Learned To Lie (Ashley McBryde, Nicolette Hayford and Sean McConnell)
  6. The Devil I Know (Ashley McBryde, Jeremy Stover and Bobby Pinson)
  7. Single At The Same Time (Ashley McBryde, Benjy Davis and Andy Albert)
  8. Cool Little Bars (Ashley McBryde, Trick Savage and Lainey Wilson)
  9. Whiskey and Country Music (Ashley McBryde, John Osborne and Lee Thomas Miller)
  10. Blackout Betty (Ashley McBryde, Aaron Raitiere and Nicolette Hayford)
  11. 6th Of October (Ashley McBryde, Blue Foley and CJ Field)

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