Album Review – Ashley Raines & The New West Revue’s After The Bruising

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Ashley Raines is a man with an interesting story. He ran away from his Kansas home at age 14, and hitchhiked around the country. He recorded his first record in the year 2000, and now, in late 2014, Ashley Raines releases his 13th studio album, After The Bruising. Raines is a journeyman who undoubtedly has story after story to tell from his life’s travels. The lyrics here are dark, fitting nicely in his signature heavy Americana roots. Raines has a hard-working, never give up attitude with several songs here dedicated to the blue-collar workers who bust their butts with little reward to show. After The Bruising does a great job with storytelling. A little goes a long way with Raines’ lyrics. The heavy acoustic instrumentation from Raines’ trusty Weissenborn add to the tone and feel of each track. Led by Ashley Raines’ raspy vocal delivery, you get the feel that the dark tones of After The Bruising are nothing but authentic.

“Born In The Flood” kicks off After The Bruising. Here Raines sings about being born into the flood of life. Life is hard, tough, full of misery. Humans are born into the middle of it all and everyday is fight to survive. It’s a good opening track and sets the mood nicely for the rest of the album. Following is the short “Momma Was A Catholic”. Honestly, this song doesn’t have anything to offer. The song basically sings about how mom was a catholic, dad was a Jew. It offers some humorous lines like “I was circumcised at my Christening.” But overall the song has no true value to the rest of the album.

Next up is my favorite song from After The Bruising, which is the title track. This song is steeped with dark moods and heavy material. Money is tight in the family, and after the bruising you always come back for more. I had two interpretations to the song: Firstly, an abusive household where the abuser is also the sole provider, so even though it’s an ugly environment, it’s necessary in order to survive life. My second interpretation is that of a prostitute who needs the money from that profession in order to survive despite the abuse and harm she may experience. It’s dark, and well written, and the inherent mystery in the story is captivating.

Following the title track is “Daddy Knows Best.” This is Raines version of a lullaby for his child. Essentially this is a song about a father’s devotion to his children, and his willingness to protect them no matter what, even if that protection may dip into some gray areas. Next up is one of the blue-collar blues songs called “Work Like The Devil.” The work is hard, the rewards are little, but effort never falters. In my opinion, Ashley Raines’ vocal delivery on this song is the best of the album. After The Bruising reaches its darkest point at “Thinkin’ Bout Murder.” This is a revenge song, ready to take action against those that have done wrong. It’s a dark, heavy saga; the longest track on the album.

Next up are a string of more songs about the blue-collar way of life. “What It Took” and “Killing Me” are both about working hard with little to show for an undying effort. After those two tracks we reach “Old Ways.” Here we have some great, reflective songwriting from Raines. We make choices in life, those choices have consequences, and those consequences teach us a lesson. This is the type of song that helps tie the album and theme together. The song has great a great violin with an introspective vocal delivery from Raines. “Old Ways” is the album standout. After The Bruising wraps up with two tracks about unrelenting determination. With “You’re All In” Raines says when it comes to life your effort should be all or nothing when you drive to survive or succeed. And in “Hell Or High Water” his determination to win is at its highest.

Ashley Raines & The New West Revue bring some well written, authentic Americana music to listeners with After The Bruising.   The writing is sharp, and Raines voice adds to each story and song. Admittedly it took me a few listens to get the used to the raspy whisper, but with each time, I appreciated the vocal work on this album more and more. However, by the end of it, the blue-collar song themes felt tired and over done. I enjoyed listening to “Born In The Flood” and “Work Like The Devil,” but similar songs following them didn’t grab my attention like the former. Personally, I would have liked to hear more of the captivating stories found in “Thinkin’ Bout Murder” or “After The Bruising.” If you enjoy the raw, heavy nature of Raines’ acoustic music, I’m sure you’ll find yourself liking this album. After The Bruising panders to the average working-class American, but it brings forth some great stories and songs among the crowd.

Grade: 7/10