Out of towners come through every now and then and it tends to be a breathe of fresh air. A new talent with new ideas, new songs and a totally different sound. Ashley Raines rolled through St. Joe carrying only one backing member for a band, his teenage son, and a sound all his own.
The bluesy americana artist is touring small Midwest clubs selling his independent record label cds and seeming completely content to do so. Raines would play on and off for 2 1/2 hours at the Cafe Acoustic and sample songs from other artists along with songs from his own 9 records. Raines’ guitar playing has a strong blues sound to it and is accompanied by his honest, personal lyrics. He played as one listener drew a pencil drawing of the performer that Raines would later haggle with and buy the art.
The set would start solo, then his son on standup bass would join him for a few songs before another short solo set and ending with another set of songs by the duo. The song selection would primarily be from Raines’ latest album One Trick Mule under the band name Ashley Raines & The New West Revue. The strongest of which appeared to be “It Is What It Is” and “The Decency To Die.”
While the set was primarily originals there was an excellent cover of Warren Zevon’s “My Shit’s Fucked Up” mixed in. The small crowd of about a dozen people were attentive to the show and gave strong ovations after each song. Raines didn’t seem at all disappointed with the crowd as he joked with them while playing his acoustic guitar and stomping on the stage, at one point even remarking “I don’t think I can’t not stomp.”
Performers of this nature enjoy the smaller venues like the Cafe Acoustic. Their music is best heard in this kind of intimate environment. They are grateful for what they get; Raines even remarked as he left the stage at one point “thanks for the ears…” The most interesting thing he said all night was “It’s a very selfish thing to write songs and expect people to give you money for them.”
As the performance drew to a close Raines pulled out the seemingly autobiographical “I Blow My Brains Out Every Night” another strong song from One Trick Mule that gave the album its name. He closed with “All Hell Let Loose” before packing his things to enjoy his next performance at the next small venue. I would put a show like this above any “arena” show I have ever seen.