Sunday, June 16, 2024

Ashley Sherlock… Just A Name?

It’s not all grim up north, and Manchester’s been prone to throwing out a fair, few acts over the years, from bands as diverse as The Hollies, Van Der Graaf Generator through to Oasis. Now, Ashley Sherlock enters the frame, with the guitarist and singer songwriter’s highly anticipated debut album Just A Name due for release from Ruf Records on Friday 16th June.

Ahead of that is ‘Dear Elizabeth’, the second single taken from the parent album. Opening with a Jeff Beck-worthy shiver of electric guitar, ‘Dear Elizabeth’ is a plea to a lost friend, described by the guitarist as “effectively a letter to someone I knew”, and topped with an epic solo.

‘Dear Elizabeth’ is probably one of our favourite songs off the record,” he continued. “It’s a song about realising your mistakes when sometimes it’s too late.” 

‘Dear Elizabeth’ can be streamed by clicking here, and you can also check out the video for it right here at RAMzine.

On the move, on the make, armed with a beat-up Stelfox electric guitar, a hot knife of a voice and a pocketful of hooks, the acclaimed Mancunian singer-songwriter, and his telepathic blues-rock power trio, have already packed-out iconic venues and pricked up influential ears.

“The band started about four years ago,” reflected Sherlock. “That’s when I found the dynamic rhythm section of Charlie Rachael Kay on bass and Danny Rig on drums.”

Continuing he said, “I’d just come home from a trip to Nashville and was booked to play an event. I was persuaded by the promoter to get a band together for that one show – and they just stuck around! Now, we’re one hundred per cent a family. I love those guys to bits.”  

No stranger to the UK live circuit. In the past 12 months’ Sherlock’s supported the likes of the Kris Barras Band, The Quireboys and Laurence Jones. Previously, there have been two EP releases – 2019’s self-titled Ashley Sherlock, followed by 2021’s If You’re Listening. In 2022, he was nominated for UK Blues Federation’s Young Blues Artist of the Year, and received airplay from the likes of Planet Rock.

Now signed to Ruf Records, for debut album Just A Name, Sherlock said, “The writing and sense of melody has grown on this record and it’s an honest representation of our live sound.”

He will showcase twelve songs from the album, as part of Ruf Records’ forthcoming Blues Caravan Tour 2023, plus his own shows throughout the rest of the year (Tickets for these being available by clicking here).

“A lot of these songs are about love gained and lost, personal growth, observations of times in my life,” he noted of the tracks all credited and co-produced by the aforementioned Kay and Rigg. Plush studios aren’t their style either. Instead, they beat a path to Manchester’s Hallam Mill to record the new album in the dead of winter where they rubbed sparks off each other. “The whole recording process was a real learning experience,” recalled Sherlock.  

“We spent four solid days in December in the attic of this old English cotton mill, recording this album mostly live for ten hours a day. It was freezing and we’d huddle around a small heater for warmth between takes. We had a real blast, though, and it brought us all closer, while helping us gain a mutual understanding of the song’s context and how to deliver it best to the listener.”

Blues might be a centuries-old genre, but it doesn’t have to run on autopilot. As you’d hope from a modern songwriter whose influences include Guns N’ Roses, The Cadillac Three, Dire Straits, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jeff Buckley, the songs on Just A Name twist and turn with a salute to soul, pop, hard rock and more.

Never taking the easy option of a twelve-bar trudge, every song on the new album is intended to make its own distinct mark.

Opening track ‘Trouble’ is a sweet and sour rocker, announcing both his gravity-defying falsetto and a guitar touch that builds storm cloud riffs towards a fret flaying solo. The raw jangle of ‘Realise is edgy and urgent, while ‘Goodbye To You’ embodies stabbed chords and sudden silences invite plenty of drama.

Slowing things down, the music’s just as powerful, as on the rueful and reflective ‘I Think She Knows’. Elsewhere ‘Our Love’ has been compared to Jeff Buckley’s Grace. Rolling with a rhythm that feels like a Wild West covered wagon, ‘Time’ isn’t quite like anything else on the radio. ‘Empty Street’ starts as an intimate moment, the singer-songwriter singing in our ear, before building to a soaring chorus that could rock the mainstream.

“I wrote that song during lockdown at 5am, in my bathroom, of all places,” laughed Sherlock. “The acoustics were good! ‘Empty Street’ talks about a conversation with yourself about the good and bad side of a personality and understanding that sometimes in life, it is what it is.”

‘Last Call’ aches with the embers of a relationship that can’t be salvaged. “That’s about how sometimes, no matter how hard anyone tries, it’s just not meant to be,” said Sherlock. “The ‘last call’ is a common phrase in bar and venue slang, meaning time’s up. It’s a metaphor for the failing relationship and it’s time to start anew.”

‘Realise’ was the first single from the album, and available to stream and download from here. You can also watch the official music video here at RAMzine.

Just A Name  is available to pre-order by clicking here.

Ashley Sherlock by Charlotte Wellings.

Paul H Birch
Paul H Birch
RAMzine Senior Writer - Writer of fiction, faction and fact, has edited several newsstand magazines. He declares himself a hack for hire but refuses to compromise on the subject of music.

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