Ashley Fayth and Tony Batty may seem like an unlikely duo. Fayth’s a young, relatively new folk singer-songwriter from Newfoundland, while Batty’s an older Englishman who just recently broke a 40-year songwriting hiatus. Hard to imagine these two linking up, right?
Well, fate had other plans, bringing them together when Batty became one of Fayth’s songwriting students.
However, that student-teacher dynamic later became a partnership when, two years ago, they formed a country music collective (yes, you read that right) called Broken Heart University. And less than a year after releasing their debut album, Broken Heart University is back with their second full length LP, “Not Today, Thanks, Satan.”
Like its predecessor, the album draws inspiration from Batty’s starry-eyed obsession with the American South’s rich music history and subsequently, his voyages to some of the hotbeds for music in the South—cities like New Orleans, Nashville, and Memphis. Take the eponymous track, “Not Today, Thanks, Satan,” for example. Accompanied by an acoustic guitar riff, Fayth adopts a stereotypical twang to narrate the life of “a girl who’s seen it all” turning her life around and no longer giving in to temptation. Or, there’s the cheeky “Your Key Don’t Fit My Long,” with a trotting guitar and snare drum sound à la Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line.” It’s a classic country tune, fit with a banjo, and yes, even more twang.
Surprisingly, on a record rife with swinging hoedown tunes, it’s the most understated song that shines the brightest. “Wilder Waters” is a slow, saccharine ballad where Fayth’s gentle vocals take center stage. “Will you take me down to the river/Where the wilder waters flow/Where I learned to be a woman/Where I really learned to grow?” she sings in that crystalline quality her voice possesses, evoking images of what this icy river in her hometown might be like. It’s a nostalgic number about returning home after being gone for a while, hoping to experience the same feelings associated with memories of home that the child in everyone clings to, even if it’s just for one last time.
After a few filler tracks, the project comes to a close on a positive upswing. “Natural Woman” is a fun, frisky, harmonica-heavy romp that promotes self-love while also taking a shot at the unrealistic standards society sets for women. “A real-life normal woman/I’ve got meat upon my bones/Attitude, not platitudes/I always hold my own,” Fayth sings. And on the final song of the album of 10, “Put It All out There,” Fayth, singing atop a plucky acoustic guitar and steady drumbeat, encourages taking risks, placing the fear of failure aside because, who knows, things might just work out.
When they first met, Fayth and Batty probably didn’t know that they would form a country group or even put out two records together, but they “put it all out there” and in doing so, prove that country music is universal. Storytelling is what’s at the heart of country music and it doesn’t matter if someone’s young, old, from a Canadian island in the Atlantic, or from across the pond—if they have a story to tell, they can sing country music.
Written by Brooke Luna