Seismic Shift 2021
San Francisco anchor captures pictures of lives past and present to post a report on current affairs in his inner world.
Being a musician and a journalist is a contradictory thing – you must be tuned into the moment as the latter and into eternity as the former – but Dan Ashley combines the two facets of his trade with ease. Not that the Bay Area artist will admit the results of his labors are effortless, even though his first solo record “Out There” should sound this way. It’s a platter of multiple twists and turns, an album of manifold temporal planes – of songs running through styles, times and places yet keeping a permanently firm grip on a tune.
What may seem parochial in the beginning, when jangly, and memorably anthemic, Americana of “River City” allows Ashley’s husky voice to deliver such truisms as “united we rise, divided we fall” over co-producer Bill Bentley’s guitar harmonies, and the delicate riffs of “Redbud Road” sweeten the locale’s chug while the singer’s lines stretch down memory lane, becomes universally appealing once “Nothing Now” offers a MOR-rooted pop-rock whose disco groove and forceful vocals will melt the hardest of hearts. Of course, the in-the-moment sentiment could be marred by the COVID-related “We Stayed Home” – despite its upbeat drift – and the reserved “Now And Then” that brings the record to a close, but the countrified “Better Life” and organ-fueled “What Really Matters” – where Dan’s somewhat intimate inflections feel so infectious – are bound to restore the listener’s spirits and faith in self and humanity.
Sure, his messages come too straightforward sometimes. However, if the piano-led and strings-drenched “Lucky Stars” unfolds smoldering balladry for all the romantics out there, with Ashley almost whispering in your ear, “Da Na Na Na Na” finds Dan scream and fool around its frisky chorus, and if the platter’s title track marries a bluesy sharpness to melodic and lyrical appeal, “Feel The Heat” simply, unashamedly shuffles and rocks. In this atmosphere, being out there is impossible – yet getting pulled in here is not an option: the album ushers you to make you feel the heat of home.