The blues-infused rock racket of Chattanooga band Ashley and the X’s is certainly steeped in Southern history but proves to be influenced by a much larger musical perspective. In the past, the band has used artists like Tom Waits and Etta James as musical touchstones, even revealing that their inspirations can be drawn from disparate genres like metal and doo-wop, but even among these radically different sounds, the band manages to bring everything into concise focus. Built around the sultry voice of Ashley Carder, the multi-instrumental work of Eric Parham, the lancing fretwork of Matthew Shigekawa and the propulsive drumming of Dan Walker, they propose to blend this heady mix of noise into something that acts as both homage and unique evocation.
On their new single, “Red,” the band fashions a bluesy stomp that’s buffeted by streaks of fluorescent guitar riffs. The music lights up the sky like a wash of fireworks, with all the pomp and grand movements that those bursting colors and unpredictable explosions can muster. Carder howls and shakes the earth, with her vocals reminiscent of some darkly persuasive torch song, the kind that lures you to the edge of some hidden lake and beckons you beneath the surface. There’s an alt rock density that mixes well with the band’s gothic proclivities and reveals the roaring bonfire beneath the smoke, which lays like a blanket across each note and beat.
The percussive rock reverberations that the band doles out in copious amounts stand as the foundation upon which Carder offers this incendiary narrative. The band is able to capture this momentary force without diluting its full rhythmic potential-they harness the inherent gravity of their emotional interplay and use the shadow of the blues to inject their work with a passionate desperation. “Red” is a barnburner, imbued with the kind of bone-shaking swagger that so few artists can pull off with any sense of authenticity. The dense melodies hold up to the weight of the band’s creativity and display a confidence and circular sweep, which allows them to have an unbreakable hold on our attention.
“Red” is the first song we wrote after we decided to start things up again. I think it really shows how much we have all grown individually and as a band. It honestly came together pretty quickly. Matt had been sitting on the riff for over a year, and it really played well with some lyrics that were floating around in my head. Dan and Eric masterfully pulled it all together with drums and bass. The four of us have a unique connection and a crazy ability to just play off of each other and make it work.
Joshua Pickard covers local and national music, film and other aspects of pop culture. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.