The Arkansas native Ashley McBryde spent years playing bars, writing songs for other artists, and releasing independent albums before finally joining the mainstream country universe and releasing the major-label debut Girl Going Nowhere in 2018. That album ruled. McBryde’s voice is a heavy, wounded, expressive twang, and she’s got a powerful knack for story-songs about struggling and downtrodden people. All of that was powerfully evident on Girl Going Nowhere, one of the most powerfully satisfying country records I’ve heard in years. Today, McBryde follows it up with the new LP Never Will, and it’s even better.
In the time since Girl Going Nowhere, McBryde has become a favorite of the traditional-country crowd. (Check out her cameo in the excellent 2019 indie film Wild Rose, where she basically personifies the greatness of American country music.) On Never Will, McBryde plays up that side of her style, but she makes sure to fill it out with big choruses that could potentially sound great on country radio if country radio ever gets its head out of its ass and starts playing artists like Ashley McBryde.
On Never Will, McBryde veers from soulful heartland rock (“Hang In There Girl”) to old-timey bluegrass (“Velvet Red”) to bluesy roadhouse ass-kickery (“Shut Up Sheila”) to goes-down-easy pop-country balladry (“One Night Standards”). There are also plenty of fun, unexpected detours, like the way McBryde happily ends the LP with a song about the history of styrofoam. This is great shit, and you can stream the whole album below.
Never Will is out now on Warner Music Nashville.