It’s safe to say that Ashley McBryde is one of the most talked-about artists on the country scene right now. After her standout performances at C2C Festival last weekend, it seemed everyone had completely fallen in love with her music and her Borderline show rapidly became the hottest ticket in town. Expectations were high and I was excited to see what she could do with a longer set.
McBryde took to the stage around 9pm with her acoustic guitar and launched into the fiery Rattlesnake Preacher. The a capella intro really highlighted the bluesy, rich tones of her voice, and she showed some serious power towards the end of the song. I also loved her energy on stage as she danced around and threw herself into her guitar solos, getting some incredible sounds out of it.
Coming so soon after her C2C shows, it would have been easy for McBryde to stick the same material (and I wouldn’t have complained). However, she frequently broke away from her set list, declaring ‘nah, I don’t feel like doing that’, and instead gave us a glorious cover of Dolly Parton’s classic Jolene which really captured the emotion of the song. She also performed her take on Johnny Cash’s I’ve Been Everywhere and had the crowd in fits of laughter as she talked about making up her own lyrics when she didn’t have time to learn the song before the show.
That said, the hits (or soon-to-be hits) were out in full force too. The uptempo Radioland got the audience dancing along, whilst Lookin’ For A Buzz showed off McBryde’s sweet, soulful side and the hilarious Fat And Famous took on a more classic rock feel. She also performed some songs that UK audiences hadn’t heard live before, including Luckiest S.O.B., a rollicking barroom anthem which allowed her vocals to soar as she referenced dearly departed musicians, and the atmospheric, sultry growl of What The Devil Feels Like.
Throughout the performance McBryde told stories about writing her songs and her life as a touring musician, as well as bantering with the crowd and encouraging them to ‘holler and swallow’ when she took a drink. Her brutal honesty and quick, self-deprecating wit had the audience in stitches throughout and it was utterly endearing. She could also be seen frequently mouthing ‘wow’, as if she couldn’t quite believe that people had come to see her perform.
Once again, Bible And A .44 was a standout moment for me. Whilst the song had held the audience spellbound at C2C on Saturday, here the crowd joined in on every line of McBryde’s beautiful warm vocals as she created a detailed portrait of her dad. It added a different energy to the song and it was clear that McBryde was incredibly moved by the audience’s reaction.
McBryde closed her solo set with A Little Dive Bar In Dahlonega, her ode to the dreamers of small-town America, which showed off the depth in her voice and her ability as a storyteller really well. She followed that with American Scandal, where her smoky, powerful vocals injected the song with raw emotion. For her encore, she brought out Ryan Kinder and they performed three songs, the highlight of which was her subdued yet heart-wrenching take on Bonnie Raitt’s classic I Can’t Make You Love Me. Her and Kinder’s voices complimented each other really well and I’d love to hear them duet together in the future.
Overall McBryde delivered another fantastic performance. Her gorgeous vocals, songwriting talents and mesmerising stage presence all combined to make for an incredible show that left the crowd wanting more. She’s a really special performer and it’s clear that the UK audience have completely taken her to their hearts. Fingers crossed she’ll be back over here before too long! And in the meantime, we’ve got her debut album to look forward to…
Set list: 1. Rattlesnake Preacher 2. Radioland 3. Lookin’ For A Buzz 4. Jolene (Dolly Parton cover) 5. Bible And A .44 6. Fat And Famous 7. What The Devil Feels Like 8. Luckiest S.O.B. 9. I’ve Been Everywhere (Johnny Cash cover) 10. A Little Dive Bar In Dahlonega 11. American Scandal 12. I Can’t Make You Love Me (Bonnie Raitt cover) (with Ryan Kinder) 13. Tennessee Whiskey (David Allen Coe cover (with Ryan Kinder) 14. Can’t You See (Marshall Tucker Band cover) (with Ryan Kinder) Performance date: 12th March 2018