Owen Ashworth has written a lot of devastating songs. For years, Ashworth recorded under the name Casiotone For The Painfully Alone. Ashworth retired that moniker in 2010, and he’s been going by the name Advance Base ever since. Ashworth’s deeply sad 2018 album Animal Companionship was a big favorite around here. Today, though, Ashworth has followed Animal Companionship with a very different record. On his new LP Wall Of Tears & Other Songs I Didn’t Write, Ashworth has offered his versions of a number of other people’s songs.
Most of the songs on Wall Of Tears are country and Americana numbers that were originally written by legends of the form. Ashworth has recorded three different John Prine songs, and he’s also covered people like Iris DeMent, Nanci Griffith, and K.T. Oslin. It’s also got the version of Lucinda Williams’ “Sweet Old World” that Ashworth released a while back. But Ashworth also includes a few songs from his contemporaries, like Gia Margaret’s “Solid Heart” and Wednesday’s “How Can You Live If You Don’t Love How Can You If You Do,” two songs that came out this year.
Ashworth recorded most of the LP at home in Oak Park, Illinois, but a few friends contribute help, too. Ashworth’s take on Nanci Griffith’s “Love At The Five & Dime” has Wednesday’s Xandy Chelmis on pedal steel and Nicholas Krgovich on backing vocals. Rebecca Clay Cole, from Wild Flag and the Minders, sings on the album-opening cover of K.T. Oslin’s “Wall Of Tears.” On his Bandcamp page, Ashworth writes:
Aside from playing Advance Base shows, the form of musical expression I’ve most desperately missed during our current era of social isolation is singing karaoke. I have a great affection for the tiny communities that come together in any dive bar or pizzeria willing to invest in a modest PA & karaoke license, united by a common compulsion to earnestly sing their favorite pop songs in front of friends & strangers, accompanied by the artifice of prerecorded electronic instrumental arrangement. Wall Of Tears & Other Songs I Didn’t Write is my ode to karaoke bars & karaoke singers. Consider it an album-length karaoke performance by me, Owen Ashworth.
The ten songs on this album were written by some of my very favorite songwriters, including a few I’m lucky enough to call friends. The original recordings of these songs have been constant companions in recent years, accompanying me on late night walks & aimless drives around Chicago & its suburbs. They have all made me cry at various points as I imagined how good it would feel to sing them at karaoke.
Listen to the album below.
Wall Of Tears & Other Songs I Didn’t Write is out now on Ordinal Records.