Ashley McBryde : “The Devil I Know” Album Review

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New albums are quite often slow burners for me, but whenever Ashley McBryde drops a project it instantly hits home. Although our respective upbringing and paths in life are very different, as with all my favourite artists there’s still a lot I can relate to in her writing and I just love the mix of humour and poignancy in her lyrics. And I admire how she seems to push boundaries just that little bit more with each release.

All this is definitely the case when it comes to her latest studio album “The Devil I Know ” which came out last Friday and has been on heavy rotation here since. Co-writers include longtime friend/collaborator Blue Foley as well asseveral of the fantastic names she worked with on her recent “ Lindeville “ project, and I was particularly excited to see Travis Meadows and Lainey Wilson’s names on there too. Full credits are shown below. 

Working once again with producer Jay Joyce, sonically it is her most varied to date, from the drum-driven, rock-leaning opening track “Made For This“ (her warning that the life of a touring musician isn’t for the faint-hearted) through to the acoustic guitar introduction of the lilting 6/8 closer “6th Of October” (a tribute to the complex life of her dear friend and frequent writing collaborator Randall Clay who is sadly no longer with us). 

There are some very tender moments and more delicate tracks along the way, with the rock production of the album opener reappearing on the penultimate track, “Blackout Betty” (anyone recognise themself/their younger self in this one which is unsurprisingly going down a storm live!) and country music purists will no doubt gravitate towards the more traditional sound on “Whiskey And Country Music” and “Women Ain’t Whiskey” 

Never one to shy away from honesty and openness, it seems to me that this album is Ashley’s most personal to date. Throughout the eleven songs she frequently reflects on people, places and experiences which have shaped her life and made her unapologetically who she is today. 

There’s the “right place, wrong time” person she still crosses paths with regularly and who inspired one of my album favourites “Single At The Same Time”, one of the tender moments I alluded to earlier.  She draws on family life, such as her mother’s sage advice which gives rise to the current single “Light On In The Kitchen”, and we hear about her parents crumbling marriage on the beautiful and thought provoking “Learned To Lie”.  

Bars have historically been a frequent source of inspiration for Ashley’s music (no clue why?!) and this album is no exception. 

We find her reminiscing on the (sadly disappearing) “Cool Little Bars” she has found solace in over the years which provide sanctuary for “lost souls and old stray dogs” (I love the inclusion of recorded background bar chatter and laughter before this song starts). One such bar gets a mention in the opening verse of the title track, which sits in the middle of the track listing and bursts unexpectedly into life after a gentle start. Such a great song, which has Ashley eschewing advice to quit her chosen lifestyle. As if she’d ever…. thank goodness! 

If I was pushed to pick a favourite track right now, it would be another that references bars , the second track “Coldest Beer In Town” which surprised me by actually being ostensibly a break up song….but one given the full witty and at times cynical treatment by Ashley and her collaborators. A very clever write indeed, with some brilliant home truths. 

But with each listen I hear something different that grabs my attention, maybe a turn of phrase, a subtlety in the arrangement, a vocal harmony ( sort I forgot to say how damn good all the vocals are on this release) and ask me tomorrow and I may have changed my mind. 

All know is I can’t wait to celebrate the release with Ashley and the band when they return to the UK in early 2024. 

All dates/ticket links can be found here

Stream/download the new album here

“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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