WHAT // Ashley Heath & Patrick Dodd
WHEN // Thursday, Aug.4, 8 p.m.
WHERE // Gottrocks, 200 Eisenhower Drive, Greenville
INFO // 864-235-5519; gottrocksgreenville.com
Do yourself a favor and pick up Ashley Heath’s new seven-song release, “A Different Stream.” Now do yourself another favor and go immediately to track two, a song called “Borderline.” It’s not that the album-opening title track is a bad song or anything; it’s actually a lovely folk ballad. But “Borderline” is where you get to hear what Marshall, N.C.’s Heath can really do.
Kicked off by a gritty acoustic blues riff and a wailing harmonica in the background, the song slams into a swaggering higher gear when the drums and electric six-string hit. And that’s when Heath unleashes one holy hell of a bluesy wail, powering her way through the song’s backwoods stomp with lung-busting power and a surefooted sense of control. It’s a blistering, visceral performance that serves notice about what Heath can do, both with her voice and her guitar.
What’s really fascinating about “Borderline,” and about “A Different Stream” in general, is how many hurdles Heath had to clear to get it recorded and released at all. First off, there was the issue of money; there wasn’t any. The basic guitar and vocals tracks were recorded at Echo Mountain Studios in Asheville by interns who needed the experience working with tape.
“We did things backwards,” Heath says. “Most of the time you do the drums and the bass first. We did those last.”
But having the guitars and vocals already recorded provided a couple of unexpected advantages. First off, it allowed the other musicians to listen to those unfinished tracks at home and come in ready to record, taking up less time (and expense). It also gave Heath more flexibility to choose how she wanted to add to those basic tracks. “We could ask them what they came up with and if we liked it, we could keep it,” she says. “Or we’d stick with what we had.”
The other obstacle standing in the way of “A Different Stream” was a little bigger. The album, which touches blues but leans more towards folk and pop, was originally planned as a duet record with a longtime friend of Heath’s who quit the project as the songs were being mastered. “At that point I couldn’t change anything,” she says of the songs. “But I still made it happen. I still released the album and I learned a lot of lessons throughout the process. I learned that it’s very common for people to record and then not release anything, whether it’s because of money or because someone got sick. It’s very common for a band to put that effort into something and they never get a product out. And I learned that my second album going to be even better.”
Heath will play at Gottrocks this Friday with guitarist Patrick Dodd, and if you go, be ready for the performer of “Borderline” to be front and center, not the delicate folkie from the other tracks. “If I had it to do over again, the album would’ve had a lot more blues flavor,” she says. “In the show you hear a lot more blues. Not that I’m putting folk music down, but being able to blow people away with a blues tune, I think that’s beautiful. When I’m talking about emotions, I find it’s easier to connect with people with the blues. And that’s what it’s all about.”