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.
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.
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.