Dan Ashley’s new album Out There mixes topical issues with classic rock-n-roll riffs. Joyous melodies accompany every track, making each song easy to digest and something you want to listen to again and again. Ashley’s naturally lived in voice is reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen and Creedence Clearwater Revival. Out There is a unique collection of songs that range from Ashley’s personal life to the current state of the United States. Ashley proves that he isn’t afraid to express joy in times of strife on Out There.
Ashley doesn’t bombard his fans with heavy topical issues on every track. Only five of his tracks delve into the dilemma’s of society. Offering other songs such as “Lucky Stars”, “Redbud Road”, and “Now and Then”, keeps Out There grounded. The mixture of personal, topical, and carefree makes Out There an album you want to listen through to the end. While Ashley’s political lyrics are poignant they never preach at listeners, they retain their power by remaining subtle. While the last few years gave Ashley a lot to sing about, he also reveals the even greater lesson he’s learned, joy.
Out There features multiple narrative songs, often depicting the grind of daily life. “Feel The Heat” and “Better Life” are perfect examples of this. “Feel The Heat” is a cheeky tale about a man who goes to work on a hot day and nothing goes his way. Ashley even sings “That’s when I knew this day was a joke.” This track sounds like it should score a montage in a movie. There is something instantly recognizable about Ashley’s performance on “Feel The Heat”, it stirs any dormant nostalgia in your blood. Interestingly, “Better Life” almost serves as an antithesis to the tone of “Feel The Heat”. “Better Life”, while it still has a soothing melody, tackles the topic of immigration. This is a far cry from the light hearted frustration on “Feel The Heat”.
When Out There isn’t shining a light on our culture or singing about nostalgia and romance, it’s rocking out. “Da Na Na Na Na” cannot be missed. Easily the most enthusiastic track on the album, “Da Na Na Na Na” encapsulates the joy Dan Ashley has when he makes music. Artistic expression can be a difficult feeling to explain to someone else. It’s often elusive and personal, but “Da Na Na Na” lets us in on the rush and high passion of performing onstage. A memorable lyric that supplements what the song is “I can feel it in the crowd and my heart’s getting loud.” There’s a detectable unapologetic energy to this track that makes it a stand out on Out There. I commend Ashley for choosing to celebrate the process of creating and commemorate it with a song. “Da Na Na Na Na” is a breath of fresh air in an industry dominated by cynicism. Ashley reminds us that at its core, music is pure joy.
From start to finish Out There takes you on a feel-good ride. You can hear Dan Ashley’s passion for making music and for bringing people together. Out There will fill you with nostalgia and provoke your thoughts in one listen. This is an album to watch out for and to listen to with the volume turned all the way up!
by Lauren Millar