Singer-songwriter Ashley McBryde is back with another country rock album. It’s been just shy of one year since her last album, Lindeville, was released. She’s getting faster in coming up with each new album, too, even though Lindeville was a sharp detour from the usual familiar themes. Her sixth release, The Devil I Know is melodic, dramatic, a little melancholic at times, and sassy; all qualities we love from this Arkansas native who later moved to Nashville to embark on her musical career.
The lead guitar in “Coldest Beer in Town” is strong; it sings with a slide at the end of the verse, ”Every love don’t last forever/Every stay don’t stick around/Every bar ain’t got the coldest beer in town.” You’d swear you were either sitting back in your favorite bar to relish it or in a new one reminiscing over your old haunt. It could easily become an anthem for people who learn to appreciate the people and things that others take for granted, especially when they’re young and believe everything will remain the same. Sometimes, it takes the wisdom of time and age to realize that and go with the changes that life brings.
Then there’s “Light on in the Kitchen,” an ode to a daughter who’s learning to find herself and how she fits in in the world, making friends, wanting love, and returning home late at night to talk about her adventures. “Honey, trust yourself/You better love yourself/'Cause 'til you do you ain't no good for anybody else[...]When you need someone to listen/That's why I leave the light on in the kitchen” is a message from a loving and supportive mother who keeps watch but wants her to know she’s always there for her. That’s how a good country mom should be.
Another theme is how nobody had better treat a woman like a drink. She would know, because she experienced it herself. In “Women Ain’t Whiskey” she tells a man, ”You can’t just quit me/And when you get lonely, come pick me back up [...] Then leave me empty when you’ve had enough…” It’s a hard-hitting metaphor for women being used for consolation with no regard for their feelings and needs as people. We could easily see her singing this to someone to really get the point across, while at the same time, having it as the opportunity for them to have a second chance.
“Blackout Betty” comes near the end. It’s gritty rock on electric guitar with McBryde’s voice echoing as she chides, ”It’s time for you to grow up,” before yelling the chorus, ”Blackout Betty.” Then, we realize it’s probably about herself as she continues, ”If I had a dime for every time you said we’re never doing that again [...] You’re taking your regret and pouring it on ice.” We think it’s perfect for playing loud in the car or on your bar’s song rotation, especially during late nights when you feel like dancing – or even just having some shots with a friend before turning in at home.
The Devil I Know is about family and relationships with people, bars, and whiskey. It’s an honest expression from an American country singer-songwriter in a world that’s forgotten the connection between a singer and their songs. Ashley McBryde is a one-woman chorus if there ever was one. She takes a special look at herself as she examines her flaws, upbringing, familiar places, and memories of good times. She reveals secrets, regrets, and wisdom as she serenades her audience like she’s singling us out one by one.
Reviewed by Camille Perkins