Chicken Wire is the second solo album by Ash Gray, formerly guitarist from The Cycle Sluts From Hell, but that pedigree doesn't mean he sounds like that band name suggests.
In reality, he's a Texan who spotted Sheffield has one of Yorkshire's biggest music scenes and one that easily rivals Leeds for producing great music which is why I guess he moved there.
The album also has great artwork with a cartoon haunted house that could be from the Addams Family or something similar that is situated behind the chicken wire, but looks like it might be about to move elsewhere.
This album opens with The Other Man, a country-blues plea to be the other man in the life of a woman he desires but she's going out with someone else. This could be seen as controversial in these me too times, but this doesn't sound or come across as creepy at all and is more like Little Feat updated for modern times.
Golden Road is a lovely, bucolic ode to wanting to hit the open road and just go to wherever it may lead in classic laid back country blues style. It's almost like he's hoping to find Big Pink in the middle of the Yorkshire dales or something.
The Creek Don't Rise is of course a song on a familiar subject but it's played really nicely and I love the little Harmonica stabs that keep drifting in and out of it. This would sound cool blasting out as you drive around the dales heading towards the Yorkshire Sculpture Park even though as far as I remember the River Dearne doesn't look much like a creek - more of a brook.
The guitar playing in Josephine Clark has an inflection or two of Simon & Garfunkel circa The Boxer or Scarborough Fair and a wonderfully bewitching tale to go with it as the cats wait for his return.
Sundown (Come See Me) opens like it's channelling Nick Drake's Three Hours before the drums come in and the vocals take it off to a slightly different place as he sings about hoping someone will come to see him no matter what state he is in. Musically it adds to the Nick Drake influence some more with the cello parts as well as the folk band playing, setting it apart from that. The slide parts are also well worth hearing.
When The Devil Comes Home sounds like it wants to be on an old school country music station in the southern states of America so that every time he sings "and the Devil Comes Home" everyone shouts "Hell Yeah!" or "Hell No!" back at the radio, depending on how they feel about the song. For me it's a "Hell yeah" for sure as he may well deserve to have been locked out by his woman for all his cheating ways.
Firefly as far as I can tell isn't a cover of the Alan Jackson classic or a tale about the Firefly in Los Angeles that Danny & Dusty sing about. However, it's a cool acoustic picked and strummed song with some nice bottle percussion as they try to avoid the evil in the forest that's coming to get you. Whoo!
So how does the title track of the album Chicken Wire compare to other great songs with Chicken in the title? Not bad but not a contender for my 5 favourite Chicken songs, two of which are about Chicken Wings. That said it's not bad at all having a bit of a spaghetti Western feel to some of the music which seems to be trying for a bit of a Ry Cooder stuck in the desert feel. It's nicely laid back no matter that it's about being caught in said Chicken Wire.
Life's Pounding Adventure starts off all soft and gentle and then starts to build along with the pleading for love in the lyrics. He hopes that his Pounding adventure is worth the effort as the violin comes into help add some emphasis to things. This is a cool road trip of a song from a road worn troubadour.
The album closes with the very cool bar-room blues of It Might Get Loud, featuring some really nice almost honky-tonk piano playing coupled with some cooler acoustic guitar playing as the whole crowd start to sing at the end that things might get loud as they very well should. It reinforces the impression that this is a very cool country blues album that's well worth checking out.
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