I don’t actually hate all country music. I love the brilliance of Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Emmylou Harris – where lyrics weaved a rich tapestry of storytelling. Today’s country vastly differs: over stylized and synthetic songs that have little to no substance. Sure, Sam Hunt is lovely to look at, but have you actually listened – and I mean really listened – to his songs? “Body Like a Back Road” doesn’t necessarily require a deep dive. Also, back roads typically have poor maintenance and reek from road kill, so thanks for the comparison, Honkey Tonk Shakespeare.
But while scrolling through the “❤ For You” section of iTunes, I stumbled across Ashley McBryde. At first I thought iTunes’ algorithm miscalculated because country music was no where to be found in my current library. Then I listened to her first song, and realized that iTunes is a brilliant wizard.
Ashley McBryde is country music for people who despise today’s country music.
Ashley McBryde eschews today’s country standards of vapid lyrics and synthesized beats. Like Nelson and Harris, her songs tell stories of strength, heartbreak, and enduring love amid a beautiful blend of both classic and acoustic rock with country. Plus, I think we would be friends. See her performance of “Fat and Famous,” complete with high school reunion story. It’s the perfect music/theater nerd revenge:
I may still not be a country music fan, but I am an Ashley McBryde fan.
Girl Goin’ Nowhere
Inspired by a teacher, the album’s title track opens with someone’s words of caution:
“Don’t waste your life behind that guitar
You may get gone, but you won’t get far
You’re not the first, you won’t be the last
And you can tel us all about it when you come crawlin’ back
That road you’re on just winds and winds
You’re spinning your wheels and wasting your time…”
This was the first song I heard off the album and immediately had tears running down my face because at some point, we have all heard this song in some variation. Whether it was a parent, a partner, or even the voice in your own head, there have been those critics that make you second guess that life decision. However, it’s the defiance of those detractors that provides the sweetest satisfaction:
“But when the lights come up
And I hear the band
And where they said I’d never be is exactly where I am
I hear the crowd
I look around
And I can’t find an empty chair
Not bad for a girl goin’ nowhere”
Andy (I Can’t Live Without You)
Love songs tend to focus on two aspects of a relationship: the beginning when everything seems magical and wonderful and life mirrors a Taylor Swift pre-Reputation Instagram post; or the breakup when everything decays, nothing is sacred, and Beyonce saying “Suck on my balls, pause…” feels apt for the moment.
But rarely are there love songs that focus on the reality of a committed relationship – the fact that you can love a person but you’re driven mad by the little idiosyncrasies. We’ve all been through this: you cannot imagine yourself without that person, but find yourself gritting your teeth when you have to ask him to take out the trash for the third time or when she won’t squeeze the damn toothpaste from the bottom of the tube.
In “Andy (I Can’t Live Without You),” Ashley McBryde delves into this frustration with such realistic honesty, you swear she’s talking about your relationship.
“The kitchen table ain’t for business
I wish you’d put the bills where they go
I guess you’d need an invitation
To the backyard to see that it needs mowed…”
But those habits that make your eyes roll all pale in comparison to the love you have for this person:
“You’ve got my back
Even when I’m wrong
You’re the only one who knows me
And my heart can’t get along…”
This song isn’t about a perfect love – it’s about a real love.
To the real life Andy, thanks for being annoying, frustrating, and amazing enough to inspire her to write this for all of us.