Song List: Any Trouble, Midnight Highway, Arkansas Island, Leaving Is Believing, Paintball Gun, Sea of South Dakota, Make Your Mama Proud, Jump On It, Every Little Kiss, Waving Girl, Where I’m Bound, Roll on Mississippi, Your Face Again.
Ashby Frank has been an important part of super groups Earls of Leicester and Mountain Heart, but this new solo album (released 24 years after his first) is not only a sharing of his immense talents, but a grand party with many of Nashville’s best musicians.
Most surprising is Ashby’s delightful songwriting. “Paintball Gun” is an upbeat don’t-mess-with-your-wife romp with the cheating husband caught in an affair and being bombarded with blue on body and truck. The happy Caribbean rhythms flow through “Arkansas Island,” an imaginary resort with umbrella drinks, George Strait music, ribs and turnip greens. “Your Face Again” is a joyful farewell to a woman who inspires the singer to prefer driving with alligators, suffering migraines, running marathons in Egypt than having to “see your face again.” Laced throughout the song are marvelous mandolin licks and dobro counterpoints.
Ashby also includes songs that have been his own favorites, and the wisdom and wistful dreaming are delightful. “Jump On It” is a John Anderson song from 1997. The family joy in jumping together on their new trampoline has a delightful musical accompaniment and a vocal chorus. Peter Rowan’s “Midnight Highway” yearns for a faraway love and Jim Van Cleve’s fiddle and Matt Menafee’s banjo give the song a strong rhythm backdrop. Tim Stafford’s “Leaving Is Believing” is a leaving town vignette from a female viewpoint of starting over again. Jerry Douglas adds dobro to Harley Allen’s “The Waving Girl” and the wistful longing in the song is blended well in the vocals and instrumental background. “Sea of South Dakota” and “Roll on Mississippi” are other album highlights on what is a marvelous collection of songs and stories.