Ash & Eric – Sure
Surprisingly reminiscent of duos such as the late Mimi Farina (Joan Baez’s younger sister) teamed with the late Richard Farina, later with the late Tom Jans (writer of “Loving Arms”). Ash & Eric are that good a duo vocally & in spirit. Nice diversification between vocals. Eric’s deep like Michael Gira (The Swans) during Gira’s dark-country era. Ash is gentle with depth & a voice that has Mimi Farina & Judee Sill charm.
“Do Something,” is the perfect example of how their voices work in tandem. There were other male-female folk duos that sang with gorgeous styles, such as Ian & Sylvia, Nino Tempo & April Stevens. I’d like to include Sonny & Cher but except for “Little Man,” they’re too commercially pop-oriented. Ash & Eric are beyond that temptation.
The excellently titled “Church of the Concrete Wave,” is powerful, with just enough drama to keep it interesting & not pompous. The duo is not quite as dark as Brendan Perry & Lisa Gerrard (Dead Can Dance) but they have a set of folk-based songs that are sculpted to their own enduring showcase.
There are occasional mainstream touches. Radio-friendly but there’s nothing here that’s mediocre. The 41-minute 9-cut CD Sure (Drops May 6–Independent) vocally is quite a durable collection produced by Eric L’Esperance in Hardwick, MA with all songs written by Ash & Eric.
“Never Walkin’ Out,” is an ideal commercially rendered song. My only criticism/suggestion is that I’d like to hear the duo a little more enthusiastic, upbeat & aggressive ala Lowen & Navarro, Christine Collister & Clive Gregson, and Richard & Linda Thompson. They have the voices.
Lyrically, the duo is exceptional. “Sure,” is poignant without being terribly compelling. This could’ve been a cousin to the Beatles’ “Yesterday,” but it lacks that one gripping melodic allure to make it memorable to an average listener. Good song, nonetheless. It may need to find itself with more live performances.
Musicians – Ash & Eric L’Esperance (acoustic guitars, vocals), Eric (bass, high string guitar, dobro, mellotron, piano, drums, percussion), Ash (piano), Marie Brouillette (flute), Ethan Bates (cello), Peter L’Esperance (trumpet) & additional vocals by Isabella Gentleman, Peter L’Esperance & Andrew Borus.
The lullaby-like “The Dogwood & I” is more oriented by Pentangle, Curved Air, Fairport Convention, early organic John & Beverly Martyn. A good place for Ash & Eric to temper their own distinguished material. The duo explores leaving, losing & what’s found when you do. If this is where folk music is in 2022 then that old genre has found firm ground.
Is it worth listening to though you’ve never heard of Ash & Eric? Sure.
B&W Image from Ash & Eric Facebook. The CD is available @ https://www.ashandericmusic.com/