Ashley McBryde balances grit with grace at Newton Theatre concert

ashley mcbryde review


Ashley McBryde performs at the Newton Theatre, May 19.

Before performing her current single, “Light On in the Kitchen,” at her concert at the Newton Theatre, May 19, Ashley McBryde remembered thinking it might be “too soft” to include on her next record. And then thinking that she didn’t care.

“Whether this song is too soft for the girl that looks like she got here on a Harley, or not, I love this song,” she said.

“Light On in the Kitchen” — which will be included on an upcoming album whose name and release date have not been released yet — may be a bit more gentle in tone than McBryde’s past slice-of-life singles. But it is still brutally honest. A mother, dispensing words of wisdom to her daughter, says, “Honey, boys are dumb/But you’re gonna find your one.”

That’s the same brand of in-your-face truth-telling that appeared, for instance, in McBryde’s 2020 song “Shut Up Sheila,” which she also performed at the Newton Theatre. In it, she tells a holier-than-thou relative who tries to interferes with other family members who are grieving, “We don’t sing ‘Amazing Grace’/We don’t read from the Bible/We just go about letting go, in our own way/We drink and we get high/We laugh at the wrong time/We don’t cry, we don’t pray.”

No matter what McBryde looks like — and how gritty she can sound, when she wants to — she’s got the chops to nail a warm, melodic ballad as well. An Arkansas native who broke through to a mass audience in 2017 with her bittersweet, life-affirming single “A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega,” she has added to her career momentum steadily ever since then. She was officially inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in December and won her first Grammy this year: Best Country Duo/Group Performance, for her “Never Wanted to Be That Girl” collaboration with Carly Pearce. (She also has been nominated five other times.) And her last album, 2022’s Lindeville — a concept album about residents of the same fictional small town — received some of the most enthusiastic reviews of her career. (She performed only one song from it in Newton, though: “Brenda Put Your Bra On,” an uproarious look at a trailer park brawl.)

She sold out the Newton Theatre and brought a five-piece band. “I’m Ashley and these are my guys,” she said early in the evening, introducing herself. The musicians included virtuoso lead guitarist Matt Helmkamp; drummer Quinn Hill, whose boisterous personality comes through loud and clear even though he never leaves his kit; and rhythm guitarist, mandolinist and backing vocalist Chris Harris, who took over frontman duties on one of his own songs, “Welcome to a Small Town.”

Harris also sang Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” and duetted with McBryde on The Allman Brothers Band’s “Midnight Rider”; both were included in a medley that also featured McBryde’s own “Livin’ Next to Leroy,” about a druggie neighbor. “There’s one in every house: high on the couch, stealin’ cable,” she sang.

The medley was the last number performed before a somewhat low-key pair of encores: “Girl Goin’ Nowhere” and “One Night Standards.” As far as other covers … earlier in the evening, McBryde had sung Don Henley’s melancholy rumination on aging, “The Boys of Summer” (speeding up the tempo a bit). And after announcing “Let’s do some bar stuff,” she sang a powerhouse version of Pam Tillis’ 1991 hit “Maybe It Was Memphis,” which she said she and her band had just learned that day, at soundcheck.

“I was so lucky to grow up at a time when I had Lorrie Morgan and Patty Loveless and Trisha Yearwood and Pam Tillis … to look up to,” she said, after the song was done.

Here is the show’s setlist and, below it, videos from the show of “Tired of Being Happy” and “Midnight Rider.”

“Made for This”
“El Dorado”
“Whiskey and Country Music”
“Brenda Put Your Bra On”
“Martha Divine”
“Shut Up Sheila”
“American Scandal”
“Light On in the Kitchen”
“A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega”
“Voodoo Doll”
“The Devil I Know”
“Maybe It Was Memphis”
“Welcome to a Small Town” (sung by Chris Harris)
“The Boys of Summer”
“Tired of Being Happy”
“Livin’ Next to Leroy”/”Superstition” (sung by Harris)/”Midnight Rider” (McBryde/Harris duet)

“Girl Goin’ Nowhere”
“One Night Standards”

For more on McBryde, visit


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