They say Nashville is a 10-year-town, and there's certainly truth to that statement. Just ask Ashley McBryde. The daughter of a preacher man, the Arkansas native moved to Music City in 2007 after the release of her first self-titled demo and began performing around town as part of a band called Deadhorse. Another demo followed four years later.
Her tough-as-nails determination, work ethic and sheer talent soon paid off. She released her Jalopies & Expensive Guitars EP in 2016 on Road Life Records and quickly had the attention of record labels and executives across the country music machine. She signed with Warner Music Nashville in the fall of 2017 and issued her debut major label single "A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega" to anchor her first LP, Girl Goin' Nowhere.
And the rest is history.
One of today's finest storytellers, the Grand Ole Opry member keeps one foot firmly in country tradition and the other in pushing the genre forward, blending rock, blues, and a dash of folk into her work. She released her second full-length, Never Will, in 2020. With three full-length major label albums to her name, including 2022's word-building masterclass Lindeville, she's more than proved herself as a force to be reckoned with.
Here are our picks for McBryde's 10 best country songs, so far.
"Girl Goin' Nowhere" (Girl Going Nowhere, 2018)
Empowering songs can fit into one of two categories: punchy and anthemic, or plaintive and sad. "Girl Goin' Nowhere" fits snuggly in the latter, the third single to McBryde's major label debut LP of the same name. It didn't become the chart smash it should have, but it instantly cemented her place within the modern country landscape. Listen here.— Bee Scott
"One Night Standards" (Never Will, 2020)
The lead single to Never Will, "One Night Standards" is a story song with bite and kicked off a trilogy of music videos. This initial installment presented a story of infidelity, as two lovers rendezvous at a local, backroads motel. "I don't give a damn about the morning after," she sings over trembling guitar and organ. A Canadian radio chart-topper, it went on to snag a pair of CMA nominations. Listen here.— BS
"A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega" (Girl Going Nowhere, 2018)
McBryde immediately demonstrated strengths in storytelling and melody with her first major label single "A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega." The story song details a chance meeting, after the narrator's car breaks down, that leads to romance and eventually marriage. "Here's to the breakups!" she raises a toast. It was those early heartaches that led her to this very moment. A charming little ditty, it proved she was serious about her craft. Listen here.— BS
"Bonfire at Tina's" (Ashley McBryde Presents: Lindeville, 2022)
McBryde somehow elevated her near-flawless skill as a lyrical builder of entire small towns on her most recent album. Though there isn't a dud in the bunch, this Brandy Clark, Pillbox Patti and Caylee Hammack collaboration reminds us that despite their inter-personal conflicts, small-town women have a common bond when their small pond gets slandered. Sick classic rock-inspired guitar riffs set this one apart from "Brenda Put Your Bra On" and other album tracks that made for a Grammy-nominated (Best Country Album) disc. Listen here. — Addie Moore
"Bible and a .44" (Jalopies & Expensive Guitars EP, 2016)
On one of her pre-fame releases, McBryde wrote a somber song titled "Bible and a .44" about her father and upbringing. "He'd see through a lie like an old screen door," she sings. "He taught me how to hunt / And how to love the Lord." This juxtaposition lies at not only the heart of the song but who she grew up to be: a tough-as-nails warrior with a heart of pure gold. Listen here.— BS"First Thing I Reach For" (Never Will, 2020)
McBryde exposes a little of her outlaw, vice-addicted side with "First Thing I Reach For," found on Never Will. "Brown liquor in black coffee puts my headache off for now," she opens on the first verse. A honky tonk spirit, the mid-tempo track pounds through themes of loneliness and disconnection. She later remarks, "If I can keep away the lonely for a moment, well that's good enough for me." Listen here.— BS
"American Scandal" (Girl Going Nowhere, 2018)
The greatest love story never told (between President John F. Kennedy and movie star Marilyn Monroe) becomes the core of "American Scandal." In lieu of writing a traditional love story, McBryde and her co-writers opted for a love that hurts. "You got them lining up to watch you want me / Let's one up the rumors," she vows, flipping through tabloid headlines. Listen here.— BS
"Sparrow" (Never Will, 2020)
This Never Will deep cut utilizes the imagery of a sparrow to tell a heartfelt story of missing home. "Telephones and postcards / I called you from the lobby bar on Tuesday / How's the Okra coming up? / And boy, I wish I had me some / Save me a plate," reflects McBryde. Listen here.— BS
"The Jacket" (Girl Going Nowhere, 2018)
A tattered denim jacket may be inconsequential for some, but for McBryde, her father's jacket carries the entire history of him and his many travels. In "The Jacket," the singer/songwriter personifies the article of clothing and imparts sage wisdom about living and losing in life. "This thing is two thousand bonfires, hitchhiked to Boulder," she sings. "It's kept a million raindrops off your mama's shoulders." Listen here.— BS
"Martha Divine" (Never Will, 2020)
The second part of a trilogy, "Martha Divine" picks up a dark, twisted tale of infidelity where "One Night Standards" left off. Production and instruments radiate a swampy, bluesy undercurrent. McBryde is poised at its swirling center. "It ain't murder if I bury you alive," she confesses. Listen here.— BS
This list was first published on March 22, 2022. It was updated on Nov. 9, 2022.
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