A good friend of mine recently asked me to check out ASHLAND, a rock/pop group from Central Illinois. Now, I knew nothing, not a damn thing about them before I pressed PLAY on their new self-released new album Wildfire due out March 17. But it only took a couple seconds of the first track “Lights Out” for them to get my full attention. Asia Woodward has the kind of voice that demands you sit up and take notice, she simply will not be background noise. Her band mate Aaron Wood (guitar) comes up with arrangements that are clean, not cluttered, and the songs benefit from this.
“For You” has a summery feel while also turning into a loud, bombastic number on the hooks, and “Something Is Broken” builds the suspense for a bit before reaching its apex. Both tracks are different, yet similar; two sides of the same coin. I really like the way “Got Love” kind of sweeps you up in the music and helps block the world out for those few minutes, while “No Trouble” has this all-of-a-sudden zing to it when you least expect it. There’s a hint of 1996 in there somewhere, too, which was a great year for music like this.
“Turn It Up” is catchy as all get out, Woodward soaring on the choruses as Wood riffs it up with just enough distortion to keep it dirty. This was a definite favorite for me from jump. The mood shifts dramatically at the start of “Keep Moving” and it had me thinking we were doing a slow one. Then it kicks over a chair on the hook and it’s like a blast of cold water to the face saying, “KEEP UP!” The next track is one of the heavier on the disc in “Closer” and the rock riffing is strong with this one.
And then, changing it up once again, comes “No Good” showing off a little of the duo’s funky side before “Why” brings the record home. A slowed-down affair on piano with some orchestrations, Woodward once again lets her vocals and ability to draw you in do just that. It’s a great way to close the record and was another instant favorite right off the bat. All told I think ASHLAND is definitely a group that’s going places, and I see big things in their future. Wildfire is such a well-crafted rock/pop album and I’d definitely love to hear these tunes live sometime.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Why, “Turn It Up”, “Lights Out”, “Got Love”, No Trouble”