Premiere: Ashley Ray Electrifies on “Pauline”

Ashley Ray
Photo: Alexa King
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Country singer-songwriter Ashley Ray unveils the audio-video for “Pauline,” the title track from her forthcoming album, slated to release August 14.

Akin to a musical memoir, the album echoes with familial recollections, encompassing songs about home, family, people she’s lost, choices she’s made, and her special dreams. It’s an album of easy intimacy suffused with the luxury of emotional commitment going to an extreme and beyond, becoming delicately tender and simultaneously vulnerable.

Talking about the album, Ashley shares, “I knew I wasn’t writing for other people. I knew myself that I was writing my story. It was important for me to really tell it.”

The lead single, “Pauline,” channels the rare spirit and confidence of Ashley’s mother and grandmother, both of whom had a tremendous influence on who she is. Their names may differ, but Ashley (Pauline) Ray and her mom share Pauline’s bloodline, blue-collar spirit, and work ethic.

“My grandmother was Pauline, and my mother is Pauline, and I’m Pauline,” Ashley explains.

Born and raised in Lawrence, Kansas, Ashley Ray has written songs for artists like Little Big Town, Lori McKenna, Sean McConnell, Wade Bowen, Charles Kelly (Lady Antebellum), and Caroline Spence, while a staff writer at BMG, and her previous stint writing for Sony/ATV.

“I was a country girl,” says Ashley.  “I love it when my friends call me ‘Dive Bar Darling,’ because I grew up drinking Shirley Temples with my dad in dive bars and the VFWs. I cut my teeth as a performer in dive bars.”

Now 36, Ashley got her big break prior to the coronavirus pandemic, performing at the Grand Old Opry after years of rejection, mind-numbing jobs, and the aches of life. According to Ashely, “I had to go through all those years of ‘Nos’ and ‘almosts’ to really write this record, and be grateful for this journey.”

“Pauline” opens with Ashley’s mother’s voice remembering her mother, Pauline, followed by an emerging fiddle and a melancholic plonking guitar. When Ashley’s deliciously twang-laced voice enters, with its platinum nasal timbres, the lyrics project a remarkable charm, slightly tarnished yet buffed to a luminous patina. As sweeping strings fill the backdrop, the tune takes on swampy charisma, a sonic je ne sais quoi.

Ashley’s voice is wickedly visceral, nuanced with a sense of elegance, yet almost primal in its passion. Similar to a female Buddy Miller, this is a voice at once fragile, poignant, haunting, and warm.

Low-slung and drawling, with an ambling rhythm, “Pauline” is gorgeously wrought, edgy, and oh so evocative. Ashley Ray definitely has it going on!

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