Greg Ashley is a big Leonard Cohen fan -- big enough that he released a limited-edition album in which he covers Cohen's misbegotten collaboration with Phil Spector, Death of a Ladies' Man, track by track -- and that side of Ashley's musical personality gets a proper hearing on his first album for Trouble in Mind, Another Generation of Slaves. While one of the final tracks, "Prisoner #1131276," is a direct homage to Cohen in both its melodic patterns and dour but expressionistic lyrics, elsewhere Another Generation of Slaves is most clearly influenced by the spare tone and confessional mood of Cohen's work of the '60s and '70s, with its simple lo-fi production and stark arrangements built around pianos and guitars (though Ashley's efforts to gussy up tunes like "Brother Raymond" and "Misery Again" with clarinets, saxophones, and vibraphones suggests he spent some time listening to New Skin for the Old Ceremony). Most of the songs here are lightly eccentric but evocative in their wordplay, and Ashley's warm vocals speak of compassion more often than anger (especially on "Pattern of Days," which recalls the more austere moments in Lambchop's body of work). Of course, the greatest similarity between Ashley and Cohen is no real similarity at all: they're both gifted songwriters with a distinct world view and a style that's theirs alone, despite their influences, and Ashley certainly lives up to that billing on Another Generation of Slaves, and if this is less clearly outre than 2010's Requiem Mass and Other Experiments, it also shows the guy isn't about to be pigeonholed as a musician and has a range that can take him in a number of different and interesting directions.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming