Grace Askew Enlists All-Star Team of Memphis Musicians for her Powerfully Evocative Denim & Diesel Album
The Seriously Talented. Grace. Askew.
I met charming singer/songwriter Grace Askew a few years ago after her eye-catching performance on Team Blake Shelton on television’s The Voice. A sixth-generation Memphian, Askew had just rolled into Los Angeles in her Ford truck, telling me she was born to be like a traveling minstrel, singing and telling her tales in her unique voice and style.
She now has upgraded to a King Ranch Ford F-350 diesel truck, that she’s been touring with on her Denim & Diesel tour leading up to the album’s official live release on August 30.
But, at that first encounter, I recall her talking about her traveling ways in a previous HuffPost story, and how she acquired the whimsical moniker, Tennessee Tumbleweed:
“I feel like queen of the road, all high and mighty and tough, ha! I grew up close to the highway, and would fall asleep to the distant hum of the cars whizzing by, and it would make me fall into dreams of where they were going and of all the places I wanted to drive to one day. Wanderlust has been such an appealing, romantic notion to me and it eventually became a very deeply rooted part of who I am today… a wanderer, a rambler, a tumbleweed…”
Tumbleweeds/Don’t scare easy, easy, easy/Barbed wire breeze/Cannot take me.
She thinks of herself as indie folk/rock artist steeped in the rich blues/country veins of her Delta roots. En route, she’s taken home 1st place in the Unsigned Only, International, and John Lennon Songwriting Contests, and toured from New York to Los Angeles and everywhere in between, with Tennessee as her base.
Now, gracious Askew has settled into a creaky, old, tin-roofed ranch house out on 100 acres in Eads, TN that she’s deemed “Tumbleweed Ranch.” And, it’s there on that ranch that she’s created some new musical magic, her first full-length album release in five years:
“My new album is the culmination of the top 12 songs of days 1–90 of a self-imposed two-year daily songwriting challenge in which I’ve composed a brand new, original song every single day and immediately live-streamed it on both my Facebook and Instagram pages. Denim & Diesel is self-produced and recorded, alongside the assistance of engineer Matt Qualls, at my home studio. It features two co-writes with Mike Doughty (of 90’s cult band ‘Soul Coughing’) — ‘Take It to the Ravens’ and ‘Ain’t Comin’ Home.’ Additionally, I’m truly grateful to an all-star team of Memphis musicians who truly made these songs come to life in a far better way than I ever imagined.”
Those aforementioned musicians include: Logan Hanna on lead guitar; Stephen P. Chopek on drums/percussion; Matthew Qualls on bass; Jana Misener on cello; Krista Lynne on violin; John Asbell on dobro, pedal steel and lap steel guitars; Marcella Simien on accordion; and, Benjamin Aviotti on lead guitar.
Ahead of her live record release party on August 30 at The Green Room at Crosstown Arts in Memphis, I got a taste of Denim & Diesel, and here’s my two-thumbs up, 5-star review of the 12-song recording. Several of the songs, including “This Is Everything,” “Take it To the Ravens,” and “Ain’t Coming Home,” resonated so much, I had to listen to them twice before moving to the next little gem.
•Denim & Diesel — Askew graces the title slow burn song, with a voice as distinct as Leonard Cohen.
•This Is Everything — An upbeat, Coldplay-like ballad, with her plaintive, evocative voice and lovely violins that sing. An eminently catchy tune that could really rock it up with a band. A surefire hit.
•Take it to the Ravens — Another upbeat gem with excellent and subtly textured musicianship, as she stretches her voice, with heartfelt vocal intonations.
•Providence Road — A road song that starts out slow then picks up. You can visualize Grace out in her truck.
•Let’s Sleep In — A somber lie in, dream-like song, infused with country.
•Big Bad Love — More traditional country, with some lovely slide guitar.
•Because They Can — “You wanna know why the ravens crow? Because they can.” This standout song moves along with a churning, almost Bolero-like beat, that will probably really rock this song out live. “Leaning on the grill of my 350.”
•Ain’t Coming Home — Another one of the real gems on the album, it features a chunky and rocky rhythm section, and some tasty electric guitar. As Grace’s lyrics go: “I ain’t coming home, I ain’t afraid to roam.”
•Fill Er Up — A sweet love song, with gorgeous violins.
•Cowboy Kind — A lovely tune steeped in classic country with lots of wailing vocals and haunting slide guitar.
•Rough Country — A quirky take on folk/country.
•Tumbleweed Woman — A moving, very personal song that delightfully caps off this new recording: “Tumbleweeds don’t scare easy, easy, easy.”
Great stuff, really! Maybe, we should all try Grace Askew’s two-year daily songwriting challenge.
Even though Askew is expecting an addition to her family, she adds, “I could never shake off my ‘tumbleweed’ tendencies and my husband and I are already making plans to travel with our new addition a BUNCH!”
One more thing, give this lady an attractive record deal, like now…