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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Ashley Riley

Set You Free

Review by Gary Hill

This is a unique and intriguing album. The music here ranges from Americana to things that are almost art rock. The vocals have a yin and yang quality, somehow feeling strong and vulnerable. Imagine blending Maria McKee with Stevie Nicks and you might be close. This is entertaining from start to finish, but there are high points along the way. I have to say that I find it interesting that Riley is from my home state of Illinois. I wouldn't picture it based on her sound. Then again, I'm not sure where I'd place her because of that sound.

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Track by Track Review
Close to Me
Drums start this tune. An Americana arrangement joins after a while. The cut has a real classic old-school country feeling to it with some hints of more modern things.
Second Guessing
While in some ways this isn't a huge change from the opener, there are more modern things here. This also has some art music angles to it. The soaring portions are so cool.
Starting Over
Intricate balladic elements are at the heart of this. The cut has some real charm. I love the echoey bass or down-tuned guitar sound that comes in later, bringing some great Americana with it.
One Way
Another starts mellow, this works into some classy Americana zones before it's done.
Oh Song
Imagine the sounds we've heard so far, but merged with a Fleetwood Mac angle. That will get you pretty close to where this piece lives. Its one of my favorites here. It's artistic, dramatic and powerful.
All Fall Down
With a dreamy, artsy concept at its heart, this has plenty of Americana in the mix. It's another standout tune.
Make Me
Another balladic tune, this has some dreamy characteristics and features. It's a particularly pretty song.
We All Need Love
Coming in with a gentle piano and vocal approach, this number builds out from there with style, becoming quite an artistic piece. There other layers added to the mix as it continues, but overall this is pretty sedate and stripped back until late.
Set You Free
There is a real art rock angle to this piece. It's tempered with country and Americana elements. This is one of my favorite songs here. Then again, one expects greatness from title tracks.
Cut My Losses
This comes in quite mellow and stripped back. It builds out to something more involved. The Americana elements really dominate this piece of music.
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