In the last few years, things have been difficult. I know that’s somewhat of an understatement, but it’s forced us all to really live in the present and confront the things that we oft take for granted. We as a culture have become obsessed with the past, even a past we weren’t there to experience. Life and pop culture are cyclical and that’s why we’ve had such an influx of songs that have had an 80s inspired sound. I’d argue we haven’t really had authentic 80s sounding music, more the xerox of a xerox of interpretations of what the 80s was. In this critic’s opinion, I’m a little over the 80s pastiche.
It’s played out, and it’s actually been one of my least favorite eras of music for some time. I love some synth, don’t get me wrong, but there’s a practicality and a genuine textural, pull yourself up by your bootstraps energy that permeated the 70s. That’s how we got acts operating at their best like Fleetwood Mac, Springsteen, Petty, and countless others. Musician Dan Ashley would have fit right in that slot if he was crafting music back then. His sound is authentic even though to an untrained ear it sounds old. He has the feelings of a rock star in the making, despite having made a high level of success as a journalist. He’s the kind of act that even listening to his recorded material, you can almost hear the crowd cheering as he takes to the stage. I can easily see “Redbud Road” having a major impact on a certain generation.
Ashley is edging closer to his 60s and you can’t help but think his age might play a certain factor in the content of this song. The song chronicles Ashley’s thoughts on growing up presumably as a teenager through his twenties. It’s the kind of happy-go-lucky days that everyone wishes they could relive. The titular Redbud Road is an apt description of the general feeling of the old hang-out spots you traveled. That kind of special invisible spot you didn’t tell just anyone. I think even for those who haven’t been as lucky to feel that in life much will resonate with the specialness that Ashley holds it in. There’s an air of a lack of consequences of youth when the world felt penetrable and you could do anything you wanted. Now that we’ve aged up, naturally, those times aren’t as frequent in our lives, and the song has an almost bittersweet tone once you really absorb the impact these life moments have had on Ashley.
We’re lucky that someone has been able to transcribe these feelings into such an entertaining crowd-pleaser of a song. The production is clean and straightforward. There are no noise bells and whistles and remains laser-focused. Ashley’s voice is strong and his performance is rich and it never devolves into naval gazing. As we slowly go back to normal, indulging in a little bit of memory can hopefully help us live the lives we used to.