Ashley Campbell’s 2018 album The Lonely One bears a central theme of romance that is presented through various perspectives and emotions of the speakers in each song. Campbell specifically focuses on the aftermath of damaging relationships.
For example, the album’s third cut “Better Boyfriend” provides both a unique point of view and the first foray into this lyrical motif. The lyrics are sung from the point of view of a nameless, idealized man whom details the ways in which he will transcend the hopes and expectations of his significant other.
However, what is interesting about this particular cut is the fact that the lyrics are sung by Campbell. This raises the implication that the singer is simply detailing what she – or women in general -- specifically desire and expect out of a healthy relationship. The following track, “Taken Man,” juxtaposes “Better Boyfriend” by detailing the volatility of being involved with a man who is in a relationship. Campbell perfectly illustrates the agony of having feelings for someone who is not only unfaithful, but also unwilling to leave their relationship. In the song, the speaker deals with the frustration of vying for a man who simply uses her for sexual fulfillment and returns to his girlfriend. “Though my skin was thicker / Now it’s tears and liquor,” sings Campbell, lamenting her lapse into such a self-destructive and ultimately meaningless romance. In the eponymous track “The Lonely One,” Campbell expresses the satisfaction found after a bad relationship with one who was unfaithful.
Instead of responding with vindictiveness and vengeance, Campbell’s speaker settles with retaliation in the form of merely moving on with other romantic pursuits. The speaker relishes in his unease as he dwells on the newfound happiness she has found without him. “You’re gonna lie awake at night until the morning light / I’ll make you come undone / Oh baby, it’s no fun / How’s it feel to be the lonely one?” Finally, “Good For You” continues this theme of reflecting on a past relationship in terms of what’s lost in letting go. Campbell sings from the perspective of a woman who gave up someone she loved to pursue her own aspirations. What’s interesting about this cut lies within the ambivalence of the speaker. She expresses happiness that her former love has found happiness with someone else, while detailing her pain at having to still love him from afar. It’s an endearing sentiment that makes this track a particular standout.
The instrumentation of The Lonely One serves primarily to enhance the lyrical content and vocal performance of each song. Campbell’s band definitely places her in the forefront while providing slow, smooth slide harmonies and finger-picked acoustics. However, in the instrumental “Carl & Ashley’s Breakdown,” the band is afforded some emphasis with a banjo, violin, and steel guitar trio. This song exhibits a comradery amongst the instruments, as they seem to call and respond to each other through vivacious, intricate melodies and compelling harmonies. “We Can’t Be Friends” also features a horn section made up of baritone saxophone and trombone to give the tune a nice contemporary swing feel.
The Lonely One proves a solid entry in 2018 Americana. It exhibits a nice consistency of thematic elements and musicality, while still leaving room for a bit of versatility and genre blending. I think it’s safe to say that Glen would be proud of his Rhinestone Cowgirl.