Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Ashley McBryde

  • Girl Going Nowhere [Atlantic, 2018] B+
  • Never Will [Warner Music Nashville, 2020] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Girl Going Nowhere [Atlantic, 2018]
The hot country news in tough country womanhood has enough attitude to stick it to every algebra teacher and Church of Christ deacon who ever looked down on her. But her multitude of good lines yields only two great songs: "Livin' Next to Leroy," the first of what I hope will be many meth-and-opioid dark-siders genre-wide, where her cable-stealing role model ODs while she tokes up at her high school graduation to impress him, followed by "A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega," the grittiest and most utopian of her four I said four road anthems. Like the socko endings she's both blessed and cursed with the voice for, her attraction to this self-replicating subgenre makes me hope that the success she's earned leaves her free to do more with her rosy future than big it up. B+

Never Will [Warner Music Nashville, 2020]
Wish she'd pared down the production here: Nashville rock at its bigged-up schlockiest, with McBryde belting to match. But the songwriting is so sharp it gives her the right to belt: lyrically not one of the 11 tracks is merely passable, and McBryde has writer's credit on all but two. Of those I naturally prefer "Shut Up Sheila" and its "Why don't you and Jesus take a walk down the hallway?" to the ecologically regrettable if musically unforgettable "Styrofoam." But every compact tale engages: mayor's daughter knocked up on bootleg wine, Biblical rationale for offing your daddy's girlfriend, the neatly dubbed "One Night Standards," missing your daughter while "living the dream" on Jack-and-Coke and a sleeping pill, and there are more. A-