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Ashley Maher


Country of origin:

Born in Canada, lived in London for 12 years while signed to Virgin UK, currently lives in Los Angeles, U.S.

Type of music generally:

Folk/pop/jazz with many varied (especially African) World influences

Status:

Most recent release, Amina (2010)

See also:

Ashley Maher's site

Comparisons:

Toni Childs? Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Youssou NDour

Covers/own material:

Own

General comments:

Ashley Maher is a singer/songwriter whose work mixes strong African, Latin American and jazz influences with beautiful vocal arrangements and personal and very moving lyrics. (kosky@saul.cis.upenn.edu)

Her music can be kind of wistful and laid back, a sort of Joni Mitchell-discovers-World Music, but her first two cds, hi and pomegranate are well worth checking out if you can find them—they have both been deleted.
     I was disappointed in The Blessed Rain, when I finally caught up with it—disappointed that it was already three years old when I got it. It doesn't have the drive, the humour or sparkle that her previous two albums had, and the independent production renders it a bit thin, to my ears. There's a cultural problem at work, here, as well, for which I risk forever damnation: In her previous albums, she used the African rhythms and influences to comment on her experiences as a Western woman. In this album, the immersion is more complete. Ashley is no dilettante, and her fascination was not a Graceland-wagon-jumping excercise, so this was inevitable, and certainly admirable. The tales and songs here are, for the most part, of Africa—its people, its culture, its dreams. As a white westerner, I remain unmoved—I can admire it, but I can't relate to it. I've never had an ear for world music (over the summer I was plied with Afro-Celt Sound System by a well-meaning world music fan, to no avail) so this is a particular bias. I do, however, look forward to seeing where she goes next. The world needs more artists like Ashley Maher. (adamk@zoom.co.uk)

Comments about live performance:

I saw her live, and while there was too much of an "World Music is great! Let's all get up and dance!" element to it, she was still really impressive and is obviously not a dilettante when it comes to World Music, but really knows and loves her stuff. (7/00, adamk@zoom.co.uk)

She is everything I'd imagined she'd be, and more. Accompanied by a stunning classical guitarist from Uruguay named Federico, her voice is even richer and more gorgeous than it is on CD. Plus she's funny as hell. She is quintessentially ecto. (3/04, meth@smoe.org)

Recommended first album:

The Blessed Rain

Recordings:


Hi

Release info:

1990—Virgin (UK)—CDV 2611, 260 689

Availability:

U.K.

Ecto priority:

Very highly recommended (I would say "must have" were it not so difficult to come by this album). (kosky@saul.cis.upenn.edu)

Group members:

Ashley Maher—vocals

Guest artists:

Sean Devonish—African drums, percussion
Rowland Eno—African drums, percussion
Charles James—African drums, percussion
Emmanuel Tagoe—African drums, percussion
Alex Acuna—drums, hand percussion
Munyungo Jackson—hand percussion
Abraham Laboriele—bass
Ramon Stagnaro—guitar, charango
Karen Blake—backing vocals
Kevin Dorsey—backing vocals
Kate Markowitz—backing vocals
Darryl Phinnessee—backing vocals
Vinny Colaiuta—drums
Efrain Toro—hand percussion
Byron Berline—violin, viola
Bill Frisell—solo guitar
Roger Lebow—cello
David McKelvy—harmonica
Todd Parker McClaren—voice over
Judd Miller—electric valve instrument
Tommy Morgan—harmonica, jew harp
Kristina Olsen—dulcimer
Al Vescovo—pedal steel guitar

Produced by:

Philip Giffin

Comments:

This album is a very unusual combination of Afro-Caribbean rhythms and percussion, with folky vocals and tunes. The other outstanding feature is some of the backing vocal arrangements, which are utterly wonderful. The lyrics tend to be of the story-telling variety, or mini-portraits of people, and are very interesting and enjoyable. (kosky@saul.cis.upenn.edu)

It's not as good as Pomegranate but I also like it. I think that her singing and songwriting has improved between the two albums, so her next one (if she's ever going to release a next album) must be overwhelming. (Dirk.Kastens@rz.Uni-Osnabrueck.DE)


Pomegranate

Release info:

1992—Virgin (UK)—CDV 2687, 262 479

Availability:

U.K.

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended. (kosky@saul.cis.upenn.edu)

Group members:

Ashley Maher—vocals

Guest artists:

Kevin Armstrong—guitars, marimba, additional percussion
Epizo Bangoura—djembe, talking drum
Geoff Dunn—drums
Hilaire Penda—bass
Phil Sewell—fretless bass, bass
Rod Beale—Midi guitar
Paco Sery—drums, additional percussion
Sydney Thiam—percussion, hand drums
Steve Bentley-Klein: violin
Trevor Burley—cello
Timothy Grant—viola
Keitaro Takayama—violin
Cheick Tidiane Seck—keyboards
Alex Gifford—tenor saxophone
Chris Lawrence—trombone, flugel horn
Pete Long—soprano sax
Richard Sidwell—trumpet, flugel horn

Produced by:

Kevin Armstrong

Comments:

The African percussion and complex harmonies and vocal arrangements that characterised Hi. are not as predominant on this album. They're still there on some of the tracks, but there are also many other musical influences, jazz, Latin American, Irish, and so on, present here. The lyrics are also more personal than those of "Hi.", but no less interesting. The productions seems a little simpler and less intricate, but still these are superbly crafted songs. (kosky@saul.cis.upenn.edu)

The Blessed Rain

Release info:

1997—spin wild records—swcd001

Availability:

See Ashley Maher's site

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Ashley Maher—lead vocal

Guest artists:

Hilaire Penda—bass
Paco Sery—drums
Tim Cansfield—guitar
Suzanne Derennth—backing vocals
Pauline Madden—backing vocals
Dean Brodrick—accordion
Nana Tsiboe—agogo bell, marimba
Simone Haggiag—congas
Martin Ditchum—shakers
Rod Beale—guitar
Henri Gao-Bi—djembe, bell, gbalia
Marcos Dos Santos—berimboa and solo shaker
Barak Schmool—african harp

Produced by:

Rod Beale; co-produced by Ashley Maher and Hilaire Penda

Comments:

It's a wonderful album: full of African and jazz influences (even more so than the others), and beautiful harmonies, and personal lyrics. Well worth getting. It's probably closer to Hi than Pomegranate in its overall sound and production values, which is simpler and more sparse than Pomegranate. Probably this because it was produced on a limited budget and borrowed studio time. The African/"world" influences are more pronounced on The Blessed Rain than the other two albums. (kosky@saul.cis.upenn.edu)

It's very much in the vein of her past work, but with a stronger African influence.... Very tasty! (jeffw@smoe.org)

The Blessed Rain is an independent release and continues her musical journey into African rhythms and percussion with jazz, folk and rock influences. As I was listening to this for the first time completely lost in the beauty of the music, the wonderful arrangements, the rhythms, and Ashley's striking voice, I was rocked by the spiritual and humanistic insight of the lyrics. "Spin Free" seemed to be directed at me, how true the message, and how we need reminders like this so we can remember the power and beauty we all possess.
The Blessed Rain is a uplifting spiritual good feeling gift, given and received at the same time, the perfect human exchange. Every cut gives me the feeling of great depth requiring many careful listens. It's like you can listen in a casual way and have the music sweep around and through you, but something inside says, I need to drink in this splendor slowly and deeply. I find it hard to try to technically explain music as I don't understand much of that anyhow. I can only talk about feelings from the music and this feels real good.
     The title cut, "The Blessed Rain" is a special treat for me and a great addition to my collection of rain songs. Sometimes I feel quite alone in my affinity for rain and wonder why so many people seem to spend much energy to avoid being touched by rain. Ashley said she was a great "rain aficionado". Oh yes, "The Blessed Rain", I like that. (jsutton@hrmusic.com)

When I finally got her more recent cd I was disappointed—it sounded kind of thin and overly rooted in her african experiences for me, lacking the humour or verve of her previous two releases. I still think, however, that she's very very worth checking out. (adamk@zoom.co.uk)


Flying Over Bridges

Release info:

2006—spin wild records—swcd-03

Availability:

See Ashley Maher's site

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Ashley Maher—vocals

Guest artists:

Andre Manga—bass, guitar, drum programming, additional guitar, keyboards, balafon, programming. kalimba
Otmaro Ruiz—piano
Aziz Faye—sabar drums, djembe, volof vocals, shaker, clave
Vinnie Colaiuta—drums
Federico Ramos—guitar
Jason Hann—percussion, udu, shaker
Karen Briggs—violin
Hans Zermeuhlen—additional keyboards
Roberto Montero—guitar
Lambert Moss—backing vocals
Mamadou "Jimi" Mbaye—guitar
Kevin Armstrong—guitar

Produced by:

Andre Manga

Comments:

A range of styles here: there's always the strong world background of African-favoured rhythms, drums, and harmonies, but there are moments with a full-band sound; however, one of my favourite tracks, "Seven" is just vocals, single and layered, and sabar drums to back them. Lovely. There's also a strong, lively jazz feel to several tracks, especially the charming end to "entwining trees". "Taxi" brings back fond memories of Joni Mitchell's jazz phase. All is guided by Ashley Maher's clear, expressive voice. This is a lively, delightful album. (sophiagurley@hotmail.com)

When you've been waiting for something for years, it's a neat feeling to find it was worth the wait.
     Ashley Maher's new album arrived in the mail today. The mail arrived just as my fiance and I were leaving to head into the city, so I grabbed the package to unwrap in the car and feed into the car's cd player as we headed over the Bay Bridge.
     It was as if purified sunlight started spilling out of the car stereo's speakers.
     The feeling was amazing: it was a gorgeous autumn day, with sail boats on the bay and San Francisco free of the usual fog, and the music was just magical.
     I'm currently on my second listen. First impressions are that there are stronger latin and jazz influences, compared with The Blessed Rain, as well as the strong African influences. The vocal arrangements are simple, especially compared to Ashley's early work, and her voice and lyrics shine through. Instrumentally and rhythmically, though, the music seems complex, and I suspect will take many listens before I can take it all in. Which is fine, because I think I'll be listening to this album A LOT. (kosky@saul.cis.upenn.edu)

We've been having a hot, dry summer here in England, unusually warm with blazing blue skies for days on end. One such day found me reclining in the garden, sipping at a glass of iced Pimms and giving Flying Over Bridges a spin. Being an entrenched Westerner, World Music is quite lost on me, and I was prepared to bracket her latest release with the previous one, The Blessed Rain: pleasant enough, worthy enough, but not really my cup of tea. And yet, somehow, once the music started floating out into the hot, jasmine-scented air, it all clicked. The sun, the sky, and this wonderful, lightly tripping, lilting music with its global rhythms and Ashely's glorious, soaring voice, all combined to make the perfect summer's day. Sure, the Pimms helped, but the music really set the tone. There's a lovely, jazzy looseness to it all, underpinned by some glorious drumming and percussive piano playing, and Ashley's voice has never sounded better. Make your summer a special one and make Flying Over Bridges its soundtrack: it's just perfect for it. (adamk@zoom.co.uk)


Thanks to Sophia Gurley, Adam Kimmel, Anthony Kosky, and Jack Sutton for work on this entry.

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Entry last updated 2014-03-28 01:21:09.
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