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Ashley Daneman: Beauty Indestructible

Bruce Lindsay By

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During 2013 singer and songwriter Ashley Daneman and her husband, trumpeter Benje Daneman, raised the funding for Beauty Indestructible via 200 Kickstarter contributors. To each and every one of those contributors, "Thank You." For Beauty Indestructible is a striking debut, full of strong, memorable, songs and performances.

Every song is a Daneman original. She's a self-declared fan of '70s singer-songwriters—..."raised on Carole King and Joni Mitchell..." as she puts it. Some of the finest moments on Beauty Indestructible seem closer to the spirit of Laura Nyro—deeply personal and honest in their beauty, songs such as "Sing Til You're Good And Live Again" and "Think On Whatever Is Lovely" stand comparison with Nyro's own writing.

Daneman starts by asking "How You Got To Yes." Presumably she puts this question to Benje Daneman, whose musical contribution is sparing but positive. This beautiful song highlights Daneman's pure, crystalline voice and quickly establishes her talent as a lyricist.

Daneman often overdubs her voice to add harmonies or act as her own backing singers. It's always effective, but it's especially successful on "Where No-one's Ever Lost" (used sparingly and matched by Amali Premawardhana 's tender cello) and the brief but gorgeous "Think On Whatever Is Lovely."

Lyrically, "He Loves Me Well" centers on Daneman's repetition of the title. The phrase is positive, the repetition rather hypnotic, the delivery joyous. "Fortune or pain, he loves me well" sings Daneman in the verse, but she also reminds us "I have suffered," which makes her continued re-statement of the title even more celebratory. "Beauty Indestructible" also bases its chorus on a repetition of the title phrase. The motif is less effective here, the more impersonal nature of the phrase perhaps minimising its emotional impact, but the quality of her voice—both solo and in the company of her own quirky but engaging harmonies—is again undeniable.

"This Is Somebody Else's Piano" is anchored by a resolutely jolly beat, courtesy of Michael W Davis' drums and Dave Izard's piano. Daneman's brief scat phrases are equally cheery. Her lyrics share this happy vibe, although there's some thoughtful ideas about possessions and the transience of life just under the surface.

"Here Comes A Body" is a song of two halves. The first is frenetic, jagged, constantly shifting: the second is a much gentler affair. "The Forest's Virgin Tree" is musically more straightforward but lyrically it's one of Daneman's most enigmatic songs. For its final 50 seconds the song morphs into a scratchy slice of vintage shellac, complete with pops, clicks and squeaks. It brings a smile to the face even as it ups the enigma quotient.

Beauty Indestructible could be described as a triumph over adversity—Daneman is open about her mental health problems, which took much of the ten years preceding this release to overcome. It would be more upbeat—and just as accurate—to describe it simply as the triumphant debut of a seriously talented singer and songwriter.

Track Listing: How You Got To Yes; He Loves Me Well; Sing Til You're Good And Live Again; This Is Somebody Else's Piano; Think On Whatever Is Lovely; Beauty Indestructible; Here Comes A Body; Where No-one's Ever Lost; The Forest's Virgin Tree.

Personnel: Ashley Daneman: vocals; Benje Daneman: trumpet; Dave Izard: piano, Fender Rhodes; Sam Weber: bass; Michael W Davis: drums; Matt Davis: guitar; Amali Premawardhana: cello (2, 8, 9).

Title: Beauty Indestructible | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Self Produced

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