By Dan Wharton
As far as mainstream country albums go, Shot In The Dark is one of the best this year.
1. tastes like
2. it's been a year
3. see you around (feat. Nate Smith)
4. shot in the dark
5. moving on with grace
6. getting into
7. enough to leave
8. i almost do
9. mean girl (feat. Colbie Caillat)
10. running back
11. good thing going
12. next to you
13. good to be back
14. what are you on fire about (feat. Jackson Dean)
15. say no more
16. tryin' to love you
17. back in the saddle
18. your place
19. dirt on 'em
20. build a bridge
21. get you
22. never til now
23. gonna get
24. state i'm in
Ashley Cooke has turned heads over the past twelve months.
It’s been a meteoric rise for the Floridian, who’s very quickly proving herself as a force, both as a hitmaker and live attraction. Cooke’s gritty vocal adds an endearing layer of truth to her intricate lyricism, and she’s building quite the repertoire that fans are falling in love with. It’s a strong place to be in at this early stage in her career.
Across her debut album, Cooke’s vulnerable moments are where she really shines. Whilst songs like the bullish ‘Tastes Like’ and the tongue-in-cheek ‘Moving On With Grace’ have their place, Cooke’s ear for a reflective ballad really is phenomenal.
‘Running Back’ finds Cooke struggling to shrug off the ghost of a past relationship, whilst the stunning ‘Your Place’ flips the scenario on its head; a defiant refusal to let a bad one back in. Cooke is an open book throughout, reading us chapters of her life with such depth and honesty.
Cooke had a hand in the writing of 20 of the 24 tracks, and that personal touch really translates. However, the outside cuts from some of the heavyweights of the writing rooms are sublime choices too.
A dream team of Devin Dawson, Donovan Woods and Travis Wood contribute to the Ballerini-esque ‘Say No More’, which is begging for some radio spins, Lainey Wilson is credited on ‘What Are You On Fire About’ and Ryan Hurd contributes to the stripped-back ‘Build A Bridge’, a gorgeously atmospheric acoustic offering that really packs a punch.
There are a string of formidable duets included, with Nate Smith, Colbie Caillat, Jackson Dean and Brett Young all making appearances. Heavy-hitting newcomer Smith features on ‘See You Around’, a sure-fire pick for a radio single, it’s anthemic, thumping and a real ear-worm.
Caillat’s feature on the glorious ‘Mean Girl’ is also a highlight, with some hard-hitting writing craft; “When he says you’re the only one / take it from me / it’s just another thing that he doesn’t mean, girl”. There’s truly no filler in sight; every track holds its own value.
We’re in the era of the double albums right now, which are a challenge to digest as a cohesive project. Despite its lengthy run time, Shot In The Dark showcases Ashley Cooke as a real force to be reckoned with; a sophisticated artist who truly has something to say and a story to tell.
As far as mainstream country albums go, Shot In The Dark is one of the best this year. A thoroughly engaging listen.
Ashley Cooke's 2023 album, Shot In The Dark, is released July 21, 2023 via Big Loud Records.
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