Steve Ashley,
Everyday Lives
(Topic, 2001)

No one can accuse Steve Ashley and company of trying too hard. A couple of times on "Catch Him If You Can," it sounds less like Gerry Conway is actually playing the tabla and more like he's accidentally bumped it. But this subtle approach perfectly fits the dreamy tone of Everyday Lives and the rather alarmingly ancient timbre of Ashley's voice.

This album doesn't hit you over the head; it rises up slowly to murmur in your ear. Chris Leslie plays the shyest-sounding mandolin ever on "Dance with You," a sound that makes perfect sense in a song about a village ceilidh (even as Ashley sings humorously "But no, it's 'Change your partner!'/and that sends me to the loo/I don't want no change of partner/I want to dance with you"). Less is more throughout this charming and very English album.

Many tracks have only two players: on "By the Light of the Moon," Ashley is paired with Danny Thompson, whose double bass adds gravity to the mystical love song. On "Say Goodbye," it's versatile Fairporter Leslie once again, adding light, lively mandolins to back what sounds like a morris tune.

The weakest song here is "And I Always Will," a rather ordinary love song with less of a rootsy feel than the album's other offerings. But even it's too innocuous to offend. The overall effect of Everyday Lives is calm: smiles rather than laughs, a dropped brow rather than full-on tears. And that's as it should be.

[ by Pamela Murray Winters ]
Rambles: 7 September 2002

Buy it from