Album Reviews

Ashley Monical

Facing The Shadow

Artist:     Ashley Monical

Album:     Facing The Shadow

Label:     BMI

Release Date:     10/16/2015

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There’s a lot of promising new talent emerging from Austin, Nashville and places in-between these days, and in many of these cases, the rookies’ efforts would befit artists with far more expertise and experience. It’s a credit to their abilities of course, but also evidence that the bar has been elevated, and that these days it’s not enough to simply deliver a good song. There’s a certain credibility that’s demanded even of a newcomer, and given the competition, nothing less will do.

Ashley Monical possesses those elusive qualities, the kind that would deem her a star, especially as evidenced on Facing the Shadow, her impressive full length debut. She brings with her an authority and self-assurance that make songs like “Running,” “Rubies & Diamond” and “Stage Fright” sound like familiar standards, even on first listen. While her plaintive vocals convey a decided vulnerability, she never sounds like she’s been trampled underfoot. Indeed, she possesses the sturdy resolve of a Lucinda Williams or a Natalie Merchant, with a decided determination that leaves no doubt as to who’s in charge. Hers is an assertive sound, rich with emotion, but neither insular nor intimidating. Indeed, Monical’s strength lies in her ability to woo her listeners without letting her despair get the best of her. It’s a fine line between sentiment and circumspect, but somehow she manages to juggle her emotions without sounding overwhelmed. Not surprisingly then, she’s at her best on a number like “Hunt Me Down,” easily the strongest song on the album, due mainly to its emphatic insistence.

A strong set like Facing the Shadow bodes well for Monical’s future endeavors, and provides anticipation of what’s yet to come. It’s a fairly safe bet that Monical will not disappoint.

-Lee Zimmerman

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