ASHGROVE featuring Jerry Donahue & Susan Rey – Sessions

Susan Rey 2017

ASHGROVE - Sessions

ASHGROVE –
Sessions

Country-folk’s distinguished highwaymen dust off their favorite tunes to offer another perspective of familiar melodies.

It took Jerry Donahue and Susan Rey more than three decades of friendship to create a joint venture with a collective consciousness and establish a credentials balance between the guitarist primarily famous for his FAIRPORTS connection and the singer of refined repute. Yet, once SPYRO GYRA’s Tom Walsh and COUNTING CROWS’s Matt Malley completed the ensemble line-up, and these tracks – tested in front of the audience – were cut, everything seemed to fall apart: Donahue suffered a stroke and Rey had to finish the job on her own. Preserving for posterity what would possibly be the band’s first and last ever recordings, the results are truly captivating.

The meowing licks and melancholic harp pulling the listener into “Xpect The Unexpected” before a mighty twang kicks in is a perfect tone-setter for the album whose pieces, linked in various ways to either artist, receive an alternative reading to reveal a previously concealed layer of emotional depth… Except, perhaps, for two numbers with a sharper relief rather than a new angle: “The Sea” where Susan does the impossible by almost impersonating Sandy Denny and entirely inhabiting one of her greatest ballads, as Jerry is adding lucid jazzy reflections to the folk mirror, and Gerry Rafferty’s “Tired Of Talkin'” – lifted up and taken to a deft left-field thanks to its fresh, female perspective, punchier six-string filigree and Maartin Allcock’s whistle.

Imbued with a prairie wind, Rey’s unhurried vocals roll the spiritual “Long Road” down Donahue’s caress of a strum towards a welcoming call-and-response and a final frantic action from the entire ensemble which itches to embrace bluegrass oozing out in spades from “Does My Ring Burn Your Finger” that’s playful enough to tempt anyone to hoedown on the hearth. Perhaps, Davy Spillane’s uilleann pipes – famous from the “Titanic” times – make “Kennedy” too wistful for a Celtic paean to JFK, yet the same sensuality in “Here I Am” is painfully sincere, while a taut, exquisitely textured take on “Matty Groves” taps into eternity to meet a cover of “Turn The Page” there. A nicely textured triumph, “Sessions” is a gift for all seasons.

*****

May 12, 2018

Category(s): Reviews
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