Song Review: Ashley McBryde – “One Night Standards”

The short version: “One Night Standards” is as witty as anything else Ashley McBryde has released thus far.

  • Writers: Ashley McBryde, Nicolette Hayford, Shane McAnally
  • Rating: 8/10

The long version: It almost feels weird having new Ashley McBryde music this early.

Granted, despite her debut album’s release dating back to just last year, McBryde hasn’t seen her grassroots support translate to substantive radio airplay just yet. Why that’s the case is beyond me, but between her witty lyricism that can either make you laugh or cut deep coupled with a front woman with a ton of charisma, the only plausible answer is that perhaps the material just isn’t generic enough.

Still, her sales thus far have been fairly impressive in spite of that lack of radio airplay, and when she’s got the industry recognition and support of artists like Eric Church behind her, McBryde has still managed to make some kind of name in the country music world.

And while she’s but one of many female artists struggling for radio airplay, she’s also proven that she doesn’t need it, giving her the type of freedom to, say, release a brand new song almost right out of the blue. While not much is known about “One Night Standards” other than that it’s the first release from McBryde’s second record, it’s a song that fits squarely into her catalog like a glove. It doesn’t have the same power as “Girl Goin’ Nowhere” or “A Little Dive Bar In Dahlonega,” but for modern country music, it’s rarely going to get better than McBryde.

On that note, to get the criticisms out of the way firsthand, while Jay Joyce hasn’t been a terrible fit as a producer for McBryde thus far, this track shows some of his more unflattering tendencies; the percussion is a tad too synthetic at points, and while the touches of reverb are nice for atmospheric purposes, this song is practically begging for more low-end support on the verses. Still, it’s intriguing that the drums mainly drive the song’s momentum, with hints of pedal steel that aren’t mixed that well creeping in on the second verse while an electric guitar fluctuates every now and then, most notably for a disappointing solo. Overall, it’s not a terrible mix, but it’s one that’s trying too hard to establish a serious atmosphere, which is disappointing considering McBryde has shown us how much she can do with less production.

But as for the highlights of “One Night Standards,” McBryde herself can’t be overlooked. It’s strange to say someone so young in their career has a voice that’s “lived-in,” but there is a certain amount of weight that’s always added to McBryde’s character as a vocalist. Basically, you always believe what she’s selling, and part of the appeal is that she sings with a straight-laced delivery, but never by subverting the actual nuance of the track itself. “One Night Standards,” for example, finds her tone very serious as she lays out the rules for this one night hookup with some guy who doesn’t matter. Between the title and the content itself, it’s the kind of song that could have (and has) been sold with some rollicking humor for something a little more fun and lightweight, but the underlying feeling of “One Night Standards” is that the narrator is tired of having to play by these rules. These formulaic nights come from past experiences of regret and disappointment, and while the production doesn’t really do it any favors, there’s an underlying sadness to it all that McBryde handles well.

And as the first taste of new music from McBryde, it’s hard to say “One Night Standards” disappoints, even despite its production inconsistencies. As always, the writing is smart and potent, and McBryde is the kind of singer who can handle these more mature, serious subjects with ease. All that’s known about the new record is that it will be out sometime in 2020, but for now, McBryde shows why she’s above her mainstream country peers on “One Night Standards.”

(Light 8/10)

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