By Michael J. West | Published May 2019
Michigan-based “jazz-folk” singer Ashley Daneman has found an intriguing balance between the soaring virtuosity of Joni Mitchell and the earthy Americana of Becca Stevens. In a nutshell, the material and arrangements incline toward the latter, Daneman’s vocal performance toward the former.
People Are Fragile is a showcase for Daneman’s nine fine originals, set alongside three tradition-steeped covers. And as its title indicates, the album showcases vulnerability as well. It’s tempting to read it as a personal statement, but the fragilities are too diffuse to boil down to a narrative. On “I Alone Love The Unseen In You,” she stands stoically in protection of a wounded loved one; and on the country-soul shimmy “Shake It All Down,” she chases away despair. None of these is particularly delicate: She saves that for the exquisite glimmers-of-hope “When You Break” and “Recall,” as well as the spiritual standards. But if there’s a throughline, it’s simply Daneman’s supple voice and a delivery both robust and mature enough to temper the whole affair.
People Are Fragile: I Alone Love The Unseen In You; If I Knew Who I Was; Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child; When You Break; Shake It All Down; Daddy’s Gonna Die Soon; Deep River; My Man’s Gone Now; The Feeling of Heavy; Pictures In The Atmosphere; Did Anyone Ever Sow You A Lie?; Recall. (42:42)
Personnel: Ashley Daneman, vocals; Rob Clearfield, piano, wurlitzer, organ; Rufus Ferguson, piano (3, 7); Andrew Vogt, electric bass; Quinlan Kirchner (1, 4, 5, 6, 10), Makaya McCraven (2, 8, 9, 12), drums; Matt Gold, guitar, lap steel (1, 4, 5, 6); Kevin Bujo Jones, percussion (8).