Ashes For Trees - Never Rested Well
Owain Paciuszko 19/02/2011
Opening track Still is a warm, restful and wistful romantic country tune leant a pleasing honesty from Katie Kelly's vocals especially on the bittersweet refrain of 'I still love you', the instrumentation is a rich collection of pitter-patter drumming, lightly strummed guitar and banjo. It's pretty standard as far as a folksy country goes, but pretty listenable.
There's a slight Latin flavour to the title track, and the banjo adds a nice Eagles-like quality to the verses, whilst Hector De Los Santos' backing vocals bring a bit of grit to the choruses. However whereas the opening track had a bit of lyrical substance to get your teeth into, this track's storytelling is a bit fuzzy and doesn't manage to stir the emotions as effectively. At Nineteen works better with its opening couplet; 'My cigarettes are always smoking/My heart is always broken' a dryly humourous, bittersweet sentiment that fits the despondent, slow piano-led melody. It builds towards a few moments of tentative optimism that work excellently, but sadly when it does pick itself up, it stumbles into a dreary musical territory that counteracts what should feel inspiring and hopeful, working much better if cut off before it gets there as a song that tries but fails.
Life Seems Different is another lively Latin styled track with some enthusiastic bongo playing and a tendancy to drift into nimble fingered guitar noodling, book-ended by Kelly singing about pleasure and pain, but the whole thing seems unrelated like a short, snappy tune interrupted by lengthy (though well played) guitar solos. There's a Gold-era Ryan Adams-like quality to the introduction of You Say, Kelly's voice quivering with emotion, and she helps sell some of the more cliched lyrics; 'Just go and burn your bridges/Just go on and build your walls.' The track builds towards an optimistic conclusion, guitars rising in the mix and Kelly fronting a small if powerful layering of vocals, before bottling it all and settling for a disappointing fade out.
Penultimate track Anything is a ballad delivered with a sneer, it conjures up images of dark bars populated entirely by lonely barflys, a band playing under the one light in the whole place; there's a flavour of Aimee Mann in a really bad mood about the track and it continues down this path, the bass and drums picking up the pace, and Kelly's voice put through a filter turning everything into a slightly grimy alt-rocker. Closing track Swept Under the Rug by contrast opens with jaunty mandolin for a pacy tune that feels a tad Alanis Morrisette at times, which is either good or bad depending on your opinion! But it takes a nice turn into a semi-anthem for a chanted section around the three minute mark before settling back into its hollered, country chorus.
This seven track mini-album doesn't bring much new to the alt-country genre, but there's enough life and energy in this tracks to hold the attention and occasionally they manage to find something - be it emotional or musical - that stands out.