Albums fall into all sorts of categories: there are the ones that take the top of your head off; the ones you can’t ignore; the ones you’re impressed by; the ones that shake you up in the best possible way. And there are the ones you fall in love with and become starry eyed about – that you daydream about, with songs that you put on repeat because you just don’t want to let them go.
Having seen native Tamworthian Ashleigh Dallas play support for, separately, Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson, I was fairly confident that I’d love her album, Dancing with a Ghost. And now that I’ve heard it, I can state that it’s not just love but that daydreamy song-repeating love that has me smiling at strangers and gazing out the window on the train.
Dallas is a young artist – just 20 years of age – but she has had a solid musical upbringing which, no doubt, accounts for the confidence in her songwriting and voice. The album sounds like the product of a very established performer, just as her live performance is assured. On stage Ashleigh always seems like she is right where she’s meant to be, and Dancing with a Ghost sounds like the album she’s meant to release.
The songs on the album are about family and belonging and home; about security and self. They are love songs to all sorts of subjects; touching without being schmaltzy. There is not a moment of post-teenage angst, just a dance between light and dark (lyrically and musically) which makes the album a fantastic amalgam of country, folk and pop. It is a balance Kasey Chambers – a longtime supporter of Dallas’s – has managed for many years, and there is same sense of destiny about Dallas’s music. Chambers always sounds like she is meant to be doing what she’s doing; so, too, does Dallas, who is an accomplished fiddle, mandolin, banjo and guitar player as well as singer. If we see as many terrific albums from Dallas as Chambers has produced, they will be a very valuable addition to the country music canon. Dancing with a Ghost is an excellent start.