Tag Archives: Ashley Raines

250 Word Album Review – Ashley Raines & The New West Revue – I’ll Fight: A Collection of Cover Songs

Ashley Raines & The New West Revue - I'll Fight; A Collection of Cover Songs

Ashley Raines & The New West Revue - I'll Fight; A Collection of Cover Songs gets 3.5 Stars

The consistently productive Ashley Raines returns with a small collection of cover songs. Before hearing a note it is instantly interesting for the section of covers alone. The title track is taken from possibly America’s greatest living band, Wilco. On Wilco’s “I’ll Fight” Raines digs deep in the soul of the song to reveal the foreign appeal of it. From Raines’ lips the lyrics sound a little more yearning and desperate, setting the tone for the EP. It should come as no surprise that the songs here all have a dark tone. It should come as no surprise that “bitter” is in the title of two of the songs either.

With covers taken from the likes of Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and the Kinks you might think Raines has taken a well worn path here but you couldn’t be further from the truth. His selection from Dylan’s immense catalog is “All The Tired Horses” and consists of two lines repeated on end for over four minutes, not your typical Dylan song, I mean, Dylan’s “Up to Me” has like 17 verses right? This song is two lines. The funny thing is that it works. You can hear the exhaustion in Raines’ voice, the music builds and and releases making the song actually quite interesting. On The Kinks’ “Strangers” we find Raines once again choosing the path less taken with a quite nice rundown of the mid-era Kinks song. Overall the song choices are very strange here but are surprisingly cohesive considering the artists chosen which is exactly what makes the 7 song sampling work well.

Key Tracks: “All The Tired Horses” “Strangers”

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Posted by on September 10, 2015 in 250 word album reviews


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Ashley Raines & The New West Revue – After The Bruising

Ashley Raines & The New West Revue - After The Bruising

Ashley Raines & The New West Revue - After The Bruising gets 4 stars

David Byrne once said that singing was a trick to get people to listen to music longer than they would ordinarily, Ashley Raines takes the opposite approach. Raines has a lot to say and he uses the mood of his music to emphasize each word.

Raines returns with his new album After The Bruising and mixes up his sound a little bit. His last record, One Trick Mule was littered with dominating bass lines that are now absent. Instead Raines opts for a smooth draping violin over his songs for the new record. He has some faster picking songs like “Momma Was A Catholic” and “You’re All In” but as usual, he shines on the slow burners. “Daddy Knows Best” and “Thinkin’ Bout Murder” catch him at his most patient on the album as the songs smolder like lights fading in the rear view mirror. The middle of the album is where the best meat is found; the haunting violin makes “Work Like A Devil” a clear highlight. With the lyrics “Ain’t got a leg on which to stand, I’m so poor I can’t even raise sand,” you can tell Raines’ whip-smart tongue is at its sharpest on the song.

Raines has an unwitting confidence that never keeps his voice from overcoming his cynicism. The lyrics are dark, really dark. Nick Drake and Vic Chesnutt dark but it is what Raines does and has always best. His lyrics are always the focus and the music sets the mood perfectly for them.

Key Tracks: “Work Like A Devil” “Thinkin’ Bout Murder” “After The Bruising” “What It Took”

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Posted by on December 12, 2014 in 250 word album reviews


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250 Word Album Review: Ashley Raines & The New West Revue – Blush EP

Ashley Raines - Blush

Ashley Raines - Blush - Most Messed Up gets 3.5 StarsAshley Raines returns with the Blush EP that is every bit as dark and brooding as his last release, One Trick Mule. Raines summons the honest and unfiltered voice inside us all by pulling no punches and being as straight-forward as you’ll hear. His songs are so brutally blunt you won’t be sure if they are his songs or the voice coming from deep inside yourself or stories from the church confessional.

On “Songs Cheap” he spills his thoughts on the value of his music, if Raines could ever have a theme song, this would be it. With the telling lyric “Maybe with a little luck, I’ll sell a million of them and make a thousand bucks” his frustration about the depreciated value of songs is all too clear. During “Tricks of the Trade” he throws pessimistic one-liners out right and left like “there’s a sucker born each minute” “You’re either for us or against us” and “You find that weakness and you prey” perfectly expressing how you feel at your lowest.

These quiet songs tug on the nervous feeling deep in your gut with the slow slide of a violin bow across fragile strings or the solemn blast of a trumpet. If you aren’t listening closely the songs will pass you by as they aren’t built with energy, but rather are carefully constructed of tension and doubt. A fresh sound for any ears willing to give it the time.

Key Tracks: “Songs Cheap” “Tricks of the Trade”

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Posted by on June 2, 2014 in 250 word album reviews


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Coming Soon: Ashley Raines

Ashley Raines poster for a show at The Dawg House in Forest City on 5/16/13.

WHO’S PERFORMING?  Ashley Raines (Colorado)

WHAT TO EXPECT?  A brutally honest show…

Raines brings a stripped down version of the New West Revue on the road for his shows. He might bring one person with him for accompaniment on stage but expect a scaled back show. Raines makes the most of his time on stage rattling off songs from his extensive catalog and often divides his show into two complete normal length sets. He is 10 albums in for his career and it seems like he writes new songs quicker than he books shows to play them at. It is the perfect time to sit back in a small bar, have a beer and enjoy a criminally underrated talent.

WHERE IS IT?  The Dawg House, 108 Commercial St., Forest City, MO

WHEN IS IT?  Thursday, May 16th, 2013; 8:00pm

WHY SHOULD I GO?  Raines is a rare treat. His dark lyrics give you just a glimpse into the madness that must go on in his head. He plays several instruments and can shock you at any time with something really different.

He plays mostly originals but every once in a while he busts out a great cover song. He is notorious for his fittingly dark version of Warren Zevon’s “My Shit’s Fucked Up.” He recently released a digital single of a eerie cover of Tom Waits already dark tune “Alice” with any luck he will be playing that song as well.

His (even newer) digital single is called “Old Time Religion” and should make a nice addition to the about 25 requests I have to bestow upon Mr. Raines during the show. I don’t look forward to many St. Joe area shows as I am this one. It is a little bit out of town but I give you my word that it will be well worth the short drive.

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Posted by on May 8, 2013 in Coming Soon


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VOT concert posters! – Ashley Raines

Ashley Raines is a great singer and songwriter from Colorado. I originally saw him at the Cafe Acoustic in St. Joseph, Missouri and it has led to me tracking his career closely. This is (right now, as I post this) an upcoming show in nearby Forest City, Missouri at a cool little bar named The Dawg House. The inspiration for this poster came from Raines’ newest digital single “Old Time Religion” (hence the gentleman holding the bible in front of an old frontier home.) I wanted a bit of a mysterious and sinister vibe with this poster which led to the color selections as well. Look for an upcoming preview and review of this show on Vocals On Top.
Ashley Raines poster for a show at The Dawg House in Forest City on 5/16/13.

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Posted by on March 30, 2013 in VOT Posters


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A VOT Editorial: The $20 CD

Here at Vocals On Top a lot of opinions are expressed but they are rarely taken on directly and exclusively. Some issues deserve more focus to be put on them and to be discussed in a forum all their own. That is why I am starting VOT Editorials. It will consist of tackling an issue head on and hopefully somebody will read it and agree, disagree or at least think about it for a few seconds. Here is the first installment; The $20 CD.

During a recent review for a concert by blues artist Samantha Fish I took a moment away from describing the stellar show to get on my soapbox and proclaim that charging $20 for a CD was too much. As a buyer of thousands of CDs I have very strong opinions on this and felt the need to voice my opinion.

Samantha Fish' s Runaway CD; it is available for $20 directly from her website.

Samantha Fish’ s Runaway CD; it is available for $20 (plus taxes and shipping) directly from her website if you want to overpay for it.

Cheap albums sell more copies. Period. Obviously quality of content has a lot to do with sales but ultimately this statement is true. In reality, having a “fan” with a copy of an album in their home is the ultimate form of advertising. It is a lot easier to remember and artist if their album is laying on your desk. I think this greatly increases the likelihood of them attending a future show and buying future albums. How do you get it there? Don’t price yourself out of a sale.

It is interesting that the price of albums has very little to do with the quality of the music on the disc. If an artist feels their new record is the best they have ever recorded, should they price it higher? I don’t think so but it is an interesting question. More money is made by artists on quantity of sales and not on the price of the individual unit. A Bob Dylan CD suffers the same pricing structure as a New Kids On The Block CD and that just seems weird.

So why not make all CDs $20? People are less likely to buy them, that’s why. Sure artists could make the same amount of money on one $20 CD as they would two $10 CDs but the audience that will hear it is only half as large. Isn’t the real goal of most artists to have their music heard? I realize that musicians shouldn’t be expected to give their art away, they should get money from their art. I am a strong supporter of musicians and especially local artists because I so strongly believe this. I love listening to local bands like Dsoedean, The Motors and The GasTown Lamps but if they were to charge $20 for a 10 song album (as Samantha Fish does) I probably wouldn’t own one.

There is also a content loophole here. If it is a double album (like Matthew Coman’s recent Carpe Noctem) it would be acceptable to charge $20 if he so chose. I think that he would sell fewer copies but he couldn’t be blamed for charging the higher amount. If a band were to include a bonus DVD; same situation. If the packaging is somehow deluxe, like comes with a screen printed sleeve or something, it would also be alright to charge a higher amount for the album. The price is currently falling in the $10 – $15 range for a standard CD though.

In 1981 Tom Petty held up the release of his album Hard Promises because MCA, his record label, wanted to charge $1 more for the album. He fought the higher price and won. This obviously is a lot different than an artist selling CDs out of their trunk but the same principal is there. I’m sure he wanted to sell more copies and keep his fans happy, buying albums and going to shows. Petty would even say when speaking about his fans: “…raising the album’s price wouldn’t be fair.”

The opposite effect occurred earlier this year when a very unknown indie artist, Ashley Raines, made an extreme point with his pricing structure. He has aggressively fought the piracy of his music (rightfully so) and changed the prices of the only online retailer where you could purchase his album One Trick Mule. I had recently bought this CD from Raines in person (for $10) at a show and it is fantastic. He decided with the amount of piracy he was the victim of he would restructure his pricing. He changed $.99 song downloads to $9.99 each and the cost of ordering a hard copy CD from $10 to $100 for the 11 track album. I don’t know if he sold any at this price but I think it is safe to say he didn’t. I love Mr. Raines’ music and was glad to buy every one of the 3 CDs he had available when I met him. I even downloaded one other album off of iTunes (and I HATE buying digital music). Just because he is the victim of theft doesn’t mean I will pay more for his music though. I would simply buy less of it if the costs were higher, maybe none of it; I do have a house payment.

These examples don’t apply to Samantha Fish though. He album Runaway is an award winning album on Ruf Records put out in 2011. It contains 10 songs and fits on one disc. The booklet folds open once and has the standard liner notes, a couple photos, the artwork is very well done and printed on nice glossy paper. None of these things point to it being worth $20 in my opinion. I would like to add that I have seen close to 500 bands live and this is just the SECOND time I have seen an artist charge $20 for a CD.

The hard cost of producing this CD was probably LESS than the cost local musicians suffer per copy. She has likely sold thousands of this album and I’m not sure if she has pushed this $20 price tag the whole time. You can get the album on iTunes for $9.90 (like any other standard album) and you can get it on Amazon MP3 for $8.99. A hard copy CD is available on Amazon for the sleek price of $11.29. Go to and try to order the CD and you are looking at $20 for the album and it looks like taxes and shipping still needed to be tacked on! I would’ve seen how much that was but I didn’t want to accidentally buy it, like I said, I have a house payment.

So why $20? I don’t understand. All I know is that Samantha Fish is selling fewer units because of this pricing. Congratulations Samantha, I hope this works out for you but I can think of a ton of reasons it won’t.

I would love to hear feedback on this. Please let me know what you think. You can email VocalsOnTop at or just hit me up on my Vocals On Top facebook page or simply comment here.


Posted by on February 5, 2013 in VOT Editorial


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Concert Review: Ashley Raines at Cafe Acoustic in St. Joseph, MO 6/21/12 and The Dawg House in Forest City, MO 6/23/12

Ashley Raines played two shows in the area so this is a combination review of a couple really different environments. Separated by only about 30 miles, the two cities would possess very different atmospheres for the performer out of Colorado. Raines would come armed with only a lap steel and acoustic guitar as well as a cello player in tow.

Last time through Raines brought an upright bass player so having the cello player immediately meant the show would have an entirely different sound. The company Raines kept for the tour would also effect the setlist as would bring out several tunes from his 2003 album, The Halcyon Birds, that the cello player, Lisa Show, originally played on.

The Cafe Acoustic show was first and once again on a Thursday but a respectable crowd would still gather and listen. The show was slightly more mellow than the last show at the Cafe Acoustic for Raines. He had his acoustic guitar instead of an electric guitar this time around and a cello player in place of an upright bass determining the mood of the night.

Raines’ booming voice would fill the half full room easily, at one point he would even back away from the mic and sing when it became unplugged, it wouldn’t make much difference in the sound. Cello player Lisa Show would play her instrument with a bow on many songs but would also often pluck the strings as if it were an upright bass when appropriate.

The setlist once again would be centered around Raines’ most recent (and excellent) album One Trick Mule and an EP he was selling, Begin. He would feature several tracks from The Halcyon Birds as well and he would later describe the album as a point when his sound changed into what it is now.

Ashley Raines performing at the Cafe Acoustic in St. Joseph, MO.

Ashley Raines performing at the Cafe Acoustic in St. Joseph, MO.

The Forest City show would be a little different animal than the Cafe show. For lack of a better term, The Dawg House is a “redneck bar.” Raines music is versatile enough to fit right in at a venue like this as well. The crowd was small and would carry on very loud conversations throughout the show but would give the performer a nice reception as well. The stage at The Dawg House is stuck up against the window and was a couple feet high but was so small the mic stands were setup on the floor in front of the stage.

Raines would play two sets and repeat a few songs as requests for fans who missed the early set. He would even reluctantly play “My Shit’s Fucked Up” for a third time to close out the night because the song was performed in the first set, requested in the second and requested again after it went unheard by the fan asking for it. The Warren Zevon song wouldn’t be the only cover performed as the traditional blues song “Cocaine” and a Chris Whitley song would also be done.

Enjoy a video of “It Is What It Is” from Ashley Raines via

Ashley Raines performing at The Dawg House in Forrest City, MO.

Ashley Raines performing at The Dawg House in Forest City, MO.

The highlights of the shows were a couple songs from The Halcyon Birds album that I don’t think were performed last time. “Pray For Your Son” is a cello-heavy song that features some of Raines’ best guitar picking and “Couldn’t Quit You” is an excellent fast paced song with very appropriate backing vocals from Raines’ female stage-mate. Also from the same album, he introduced “Big Lovin’ Woman” as “a song for the fellas who like to buy in bulk” and the slow paced “Dirge” would be used to close the first night’s set.

One Trick Mule, Begin and Ashley Raines were the three records being sold and all would be well represented. “Hank Williams Saved My Life” from Ashley Raines was a particularly good reading on the second show in Forest City as it was slowed down outfitted with a completely different sound thanks to the cello and “Never Any Good at Goodbye” may feature Raines’ best vocal work and sounds great live. The bass heavy One Trick Mule had a fresh take with the cello being great on songs like ” Man’s Gotta Do” and “The Decency To Die” but not quite filling out the sound of the rich bass groove of “All Hell Lets Loose” and “It Is What It Is.”

Ashley Raines makes for a good show and is always entertaining. The songs are well done and he really gives a full effort whether the bar is packed or empty. He isn’t a good act to see while you are screaming and yelling with your friends (that’s what crappy cover bands are for) but is excellent for a laid-back relaxing show for anybody who enjoys music. The songs are best enjoyed if you pay attention to the lyrics and with a minimal amount of drunken chatter. His records sound very clean and a lot like the live shows and not near enough people have bought them at the shows I’ve attended.

Enjoy the “Back For More” video by Ashley Raines via

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Posted by on June 25, 2012 in Concert Review


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