Ashley McBryde learned how to hold a crowd’s attention in dive bars off rural Arkansas highways. Perched on a stool with her acoustic guitar, she got tough--but also tender toward the bikers and barflies. Never Will-the anticipated follow-up to her Grammy-nominated major label debut Girl Going Nowhere-proves that the vignettes, confessions and wit capturing a wide spectrum of blue-collar Southern women’s experience on that first record were no fluke, but a tantalizing precursor to even more dazzling songwriting brilliance. The songs on Never Will offer sing-along hooks, clever wordplay, and meaty tales: “One Night Standards” makes a direct case for an illicit affair without pretense or strings. “Martha Divine” uses a shovel to the face of a father’s mistress as a deeply satisfying defense of mama. “Stone” combs through the despair of loss and the anger and love only found in recognizing yourself in the one who’s gone. The music itself is stadium-ready rock-and-roll with a bluegrass wink or two and country music’s storytelling heart, and, no longer new, McBryde is its ordained and highly capable standard bearer.
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