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On her MySpace.com page, singer/songwriter Ashley Lennon Thomas describes herself as sounding like "a hot cup of coffee, a sultry summer evening, [or] a sleepy firecracker." After listening to her full-length debut, Sparkle Plenty, it’s hard to disagree.
Ashley Lennon Thomas [ALT] is an accomplished rhythm guitarist, who also "dabble(s) in piano …and, most recently, mandolin and bass." According to her back-story, she was raised in Los Angeles, CA, as part of a family with rich philharmonic ties dating back to her great grandfathers, one of whom worked as a bass player in a jazz band while the other gained regional fame as a singing cowboy named "Possum Trot Bruce." (Do I hear a song in the making?) The modern-day Thomas clan is host to a number of talented musicians, including ALT, brothers Paul & Johnny, and, most notably, dad, aka John "JT" Thomas, a gifted multi-instrumentalist who has toured professionally with everyone from Bruce Hornsby and Rita Coolidge to the Grateful Dead and jamband super-group MoDeReKo.
Originally conceived as a four-song demo, Sparkle Plenty blossomed into a full-length album as ALT developed her songwriting and performing skills over the past five years. She contributes rhythm guitar to all thirteen credited songs on Sparkle Plenty, eleven of which are original compositions, and she co-produced the project with her dad, who also engineered most of the tracks and added organ, piano, accordion, bass, et al. The Sparkle Plenty sessions were graced by many talented studio luminaries, including grammy-winning drummer John Molo (Bruce Hornsby & the Range, Phil Lesh & Friends, John Fogerty, MoDeReKo), Lynn "Skins" Coulter (Duck Dunn), Doug Derryberry (Bruce Hornsby, The Emptys), J.V. Collier (Bruce Hornsby, Bonnie Raitt, Herbie Hancock) and Dan Conway (MoDeReKo, Red Diamond, Zeugma).
Highlights on Sparkle Plenty include the country/gospel-tinged lead track, "Wait in the Water," the bluesy lounge-swaggering "Black Coffee," and the playful "Sneaky Pie." "Highway Song" lulls you into an instant sense of nostalgia for the open road, replete with melancholy and windshield-wiper fatigue. The melody of the R&B-styled "Like I Can" will ruminate in your memory long after each listen. The catchy romp entitled "Buick City Complex" features a great co-lead vocal, courtesy of Lynn Coulter. (SPOILER ALERT: stick around for the "hidden bonus track").
Whether ALT infuses a tune with the sensual breathiness of Edie Brickell or the ethereal coolness of Rickie Lee Jones, she manages to create a sound that is all her own. In short, Ashley Lennon Thomas has arrived on the music scene in a big way and promises to sparkle plenty.