Greg Ashley's solo work focuses on the delicately experimental songs that popped up occasionally on his band the Gris Gris' self-titled debut album, and even more rarely on its follow-up, For the Season. While Ashley's second solo album, Painted Garden, is a little more polished than his first, the brilliant Medicine Fuck Dream, it's still swathed in layers of evocative static and noise, and it's easily as ambitious and free-flowing as any of his Gris Gris work. Painted Garden's opening track, the eight-minute "Song from Limestone County," is a Gris Gris-scale epic with a gentler touch than Ashley's main project. Moving from freak folk lullaby into an oddly Celtic singalong, it sets the tone for a set of songs that share a hypnotic pace, rich textures, and surprisingly sweet melodies as they explore wildly different sounds. "Caroline and the Orange Tree" is an acid folk ballad that feels timeless, while "Sailing with Bobby" sounds like a traditional Asian song translated into pidgin English. "Fisher King" pioneers lysergic lounge-jazz, and "Pretty Belladonna" subverts '50s rock ballads with spooky organs and even spookier backing vocals. More abstract, overtly experimental songs, like the serene, then squalling "Medication #5" and lushly moody "Room 33," almost feel like they escaped from a Gris Gris album. However, "Won't Be Long," a lighthearted sketch of a song, and "Corporation Station Agent," a reworked Gris Gris B-side that captures the whimsical, back-porch-jam feel of some of his best work, help maintain a sense of intimacy. And, while Painted Garden might not be quite as intimate or singular as Medicine Fuck Dream, it captures the secret, slightly mystical feel of its title perfectly, and is another fine addition to Ashley's body of work.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares