Fans of Sierra Hull and Alison Krauss who have been waiting impatiently for new albums from their favorite ethereal-voiced songstresses may be able to find a fix in the new album from Ashley Lewis. Lewis, a mandolin player and singer whose combination of delicate yet strong vocals and instrumental skill immediately bring to mind the two aforementioned ladies, showcases her numerous talents on Captivated, her third album.
Of the 14 songs on the album, Lewis wrote or co-wrote all but two – Django Reinhardt’s Minor Swing and Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. Those two prove to be inspired covers. The former is a fun, jazzy take on Reinhardt’s tune, with shades of the 1970s David Grisman Quintet version. Lewis’s mandolin and Jimmy Mattingly’s fiddle work well together on this track. Hallelujah has a bit of the feel of a lullaby, featuring gentle mandolin behind Lewis’s smooth vocals. It’s certainly an enjoyable version of the well-known song.
For the most part, Lewis’s originals tackle the theme of love – mostly lost, but sometimes gained. The lead single, River’s Rising, uses a thunderstorm as a metaphor for a passionate night. It’s one of the grassiest tracks on the album, with an urgent feel and nice dobro work from Andy Hall. Mermaid also features an ardent lover, and has a sultry, gypsy jazz vibe. You Put the Fire in Me is a bouncy western swing number co-written by Lewis and Mattingly. Ashley sounds like she’s having fun with this one.
Several of the other songs lean toward a contemporary acoustic country, singer/songwriter sound. Ghost, written with Jon Weisberger, is the story of a woman who is haunted by the memories of a man who cheated and left. Winter in Wyoming finds the singer still holding out for a would-be country star who “was beckoned by the music, by Broadway and the lights.” The mountains of North Carolina are featured in Blue Ridge Rain, as the singer reminisces on both good and bad memories of home.
Josh Williams guests on Another Place, Another Time, one of the album’s most enjoyable tracks. His rich vocals pair nicely with Lewis’s voice. There’s also a second cut of the song at the end of the album, labeled as the “classic country” version. It actually doesn’t sound that much different from the first version, but has a few additional instruments, like piano and electric guitar, added in. However, the sound isn’t as much “classic” as it is ’90s/early 2000s country – it’d be easy to imagine this on a Brad Paisley album.
Lewis has picked a cast of talented supporting musicians for Captivated. Mattingly, who also produced the album, is perhaps the standout, with tasteful fiddling throughout. Other guests include Dennis Crouch (bass), Sammy Shelor (banjo), and Kent Wells (guitar), among others. They come together for an album that has hints of bluegrass, jazz, and country, but which fans of a variety of acoustic music styles should enjoy.
For more information on Lewis, visit her website at www.ashleylewis.net. Captivated can be purchased from several online music retailers, including CDBaby and Amazon.