Album Review: Ashlinn Gray ‘Self Titled E.P.’

Singer Songwriter Ashlinn Gray

Singer Songwriter Ashlinn Gray

By far the best part of my job as a reviewer isn’t hearing new music from big artists, although it’s fun to hear the progression of an artist. The best part of being a reviewer is hearing an artist that is new and has the potential to do amazing things. With this in mind I found myself excited to be listening to South African Born singer Ashlinn Gray for the first time with her first single ‘Battleships.’ Not only is it a catchy tune but it’s a slightly new take on the whole female singer songwriter patter that we hear and expect on the radio.

Battleships has a great little story attached to it as it’s not only the first single that Ashlinn has released (that will certainly help propeller her career) but it was the first song that she had ever written. How great is that?
Even at the tender age of 17 Ashlinn is showing a depth of sophistication that is well beyond her years. It would be easy for someone of her age and experience to bring out just a simple ballad laden E.P. with just a simple acoustic guitar and her well rounded vocals and be happy with it, but Ashlinn has proven she is beyond settling for mediocrity. She surrounds herself with a great band and has developed a sound that sits perfectly within an uptempo pop folk sound and power ballad.

Ashlinn has a voice that is both raw and powerful and yet shows such tenderness in emotion and a connection that again is beyond her years. We live on a planet where a majority of 17 year old kids are happy to sit at home in front of a screen of some sort and the only connection being made is via tweets and social media posts. Ashlinn is working hard balancing her school work and growing a career. Ashlinn, despite the life balance, is still able to connect on a deeper level. Songs like ‘Risking it All’ and ‘Closer Now’ show both the power and the tenderness possessed by someone so young and it’s intriguing.

I love how the E.P. ends with the track ‘Sugar Coated Lemons’ a great pop laced single that has a positive outlook to when life doesn’t go as expected. And while this fun little ditty could be seen as just another nice little pop song it shows the drive and the sense of motivation that Ashlinn has towards her fellow man. Ashlinn wants to connect, she wants to inspire, and she wants to motivate.

It seems that Ashlinn is already thinking bigger than herself already, and the wonderful thing is that if she’s creating this level of quality and depth of song writing now just imagine what she could accomplish. Imagine if Ashlinn inspired others like her to do the same. This world could be a much better place. Thank Goodness for that!


Album Review: Newsboys ‘Born Again’

If Bono left U2 it’s fair to say that the band will fall in on itself like some black hole collapsing in on itself due to the massive void left, and if we are going to be fair that was the prospect that The Newsboys faced when founding member drummer and more recently the face and front man Peter Furler announced that he would be pulling out. So the question had to be asked, was this the end of The Newsboys?

Peter Furler had a huge stage presence and lungs to match… would this void to be too much to fill?

Well the fact that I’m writing a review about a new album that isn’t a ‘greatest hits’ package would suggest that they found someone. Long time Newsboys friend and Christian rock pioneer Michael  Tait (from multi platinum band DC Talk) moved into the massive void left by Peter. Now I was one of many people who thought that this was more of a gimmick and the last breath of a band that had seen one change to many… and I was wrong.

What happened was a new birth… and the title of the album suggest more than is obvious from a Christian band. Tait has been able to take the band to places that the band could never had gone to before. The last album (In the hands of God) had a feeling of predictability and it felt like the band had painted themselves into a corner, adding Tait to the mix (with his unique vocal abilities) in essence opened a hidden door allowing the band to rediscover a new sound… while not loosing the sound they are known for.

So what does the album sound like?

Born Again has the usual pop rock sound that NB’s are known for although adding Taits voice has meant that the NB’s have been able to bring an album that takes in all aspects of the rock spectrum… when it’s not rockin’ it has a nice pop feel, when it’s not poppin’ it’s dancing… when it’s not dancing it’s worshipping… it really is very very well done and at no point are you thinking that this isn’t how NB’s should be? It just feels right!

This is an album for all pop music types.

NB’s are able to keep their distinct australasian feel by adding the song by the Aussie Worship group Hillsong ‘Mighty to Save’… adding their own pop flair to it of course… in the past they have used songs by NZ group Magnify and Hillsong United songstress Brooke Fraser, keeping the Aussie and NZ worship scene in the front of the minds of Millions of people around the world. Also by adding ‘When the boys light up’ is also another hat tip to down under seemingly using the Aussie Crawl anthem ‘Boys light up as it’s base.

This album is sonically a kaleidoscope of sound and emotion, and most certainly the best album from the boys since their 1996 album ‘Take Me to your Leader’… the NB’s are also back lyrically to their quirky best with

“Things change, Just like the Twitter that you update Or your Facebook status on your front page  there’s no comment you can leave to change my mind”

An album that has something for everyone, it always keeps you guessing what is coming next AND is good quality sound… which is missing from many mainstream albums these days.

And just to keep you happy… Newsboys have made the completion of the DC Talk tribe to the Newsboys family final with the cover of the DCT classic ‘Jesus Freak’ , with KJ52 adding the rap to the song.

This is the album that the Newsboys were formed for… and ‘the boys light up’ and Shine!