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The Singles Bar: Ashley McBryde, ‘A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega’

Welcome to The Singles Bar, a review series focused on new single and song releases.

We’ve all hit rock bottom sooner or later. The world can be a tragic, destructive and crippling wasteland ⎯⎯ and you may feel inclined to lose yourself in the mayhem. “Man, it’s a hittin’-rock-bottom, smoke-‘em-if-you-got-‘em, nothing’s-goin’-right, makin’-the-best-of-the-worst-day kinda night,” Ashley McBryde acknowledges on her single “A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega,” a cut from her forthcoming album, Girl Goin’ Nowhere. Written with Nicolette Hanford and Jesse Rice (Florida Georgia Line, Chase Rice, Kristian Bush), the neo-traditional-bent psalm is soaked in McBryde’s frank portrayal of reality. Her voice cracks across the melody, bound to such striking imagery as: “To the flat broke, couch cushion gas money / The worker bee that ain’t gettin’ no honey / Missin’ someone all the while runnin’ / Gunnin’ for the brighter lights,” she depicts over a blanket of boot-shaking guitar, church-choir keyboard and dusty percussion.

If you’re an avid listener to SiriusXM The Highway, you’ll know this song plenty by now. “A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega” was selected as a Highway Find earlier this summer and became a Top 5 hit but is now finally being pushed to terrestrial radio (adds date Oct. 16) via Warner Nashville. Mainstream radio still undercuts women, but there is hope the plucky mid-tempo could cause more outward ripples. Chris Stapleton continues to be the best-selling act of the year (from virtually no airplay), with Midland, Jon Pardi and William Michael Morgan shaking up the status quo with ’90s-throwback chart-topping tunes. Could McBryde be next?

On the hook, she frames her astute turns of phrase. “Here’s to the break ups that didn’t break us / The break down, wrong turn that takes ya / To a little dive bar in Dahlonega,” she salutes, tipping her hat and her heart to a bygone era. “Hear a song from a band that saves ya, man / It’s hittin’ rock bottom smoke ’em if you got ’em / Nothing’s going right / Makin’ the best of a worst day, kind of night.” The arrangement smolders like a Mary Chapin Carpenter ballad, wrapped neatly in a staunch Chely Wright glow. But make no mistake, the song is unfiltered and unapologetically McBryde. The anguish becomes even more apparent on the second verse, as she prays, “We’ve all got a number we don’t wanna drunk dial / And a good friend we ain’t seen in a while / And a slow dance left in these boots / And a chance at puttin’ down new roots.”

She previously explained how the song came to be: “We had all had a really bad day.  Not ‘one of the worst days of my life,’ but I had one of those days where nothing was going right. I got a crack in my windshield on my way to work, I got sick, and had broken a guitar string all within an hour and a half.  On top of that my co-writer, Jesse, was late, but bless his heart, when he walked in we could tell he had had a night and a morning that was just as rough as ours. That’s how we got on the subject of having the worst day ever, and that’s when Jesse started talking about his car breaking down in Dahlonega, GA.”

The accompanying visual (below) was filmed in the Watertown/Lebanon area and features many of her close friends. The somber visual was directed by Reid Long, known for his work with Rodney Crowell, Eric Church, Little Big Town and Kacey Musgraves.

McBryde’s new album (street date yet announced) serves as the follow-up to 2016’s Jalopies & Expensive Guitars EP and is produced by Jay Joyce (Eric Church, Little Big Town). The record is also sampled by two other new songs, “Tired of Being Happy” and the heartrending title cut, both of which further display her depth and stylistic-adventures in rock and folk music. McBryde carries the punch of Gretchen Wilson and the sensitivity and glaring sharpness of Carpenter. When “the lights come up,” as she weeps on “Girl Goin’ Nowhere,” and her voice cuts through your speakers, you get the sense you are witnessing the burgeoning of country’s next torchbearer.

Grade: 3.5 out of 5

Watch the video below:

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Jason Scott

Editor-in-Chief of the Badlands, spinning those B-Sides. Love Parks & Rec. Addicted to high-priced coffee drinks, alt-country and synth-pop, and never know when to quit. Got a cat named Jake--and she doesn't like you very much.