A childish drawing of a smiling cowgirl graces the cover of A Million Stars, lasso in hand. In its endearing simplicity, it is a perfect reflection of Ashleigh Flynn’s capacity for borderline-cartoonish eccentricity, a dash of beguiling humor in your typical slice of Americana. This puts her on strong footing when venturing into traditional singer-songwriter realms. Her biggest asset is her light yet textured vocals and down-home genuineness. The best of these reflective songs are her slower, banjo-based numbers such as opener “The Devil Called Your Name,” in which Flynn scolds an impulsive and unfaithful lover, and the lighter, charming love song “Rainy Day.”
However, the album is truly dominated by its litany of offbeat and headstrong female characters. Boisterous bluegrass tune “Dirty Hands And Dirty Feet” is an ode to the birthplace of the coal miner’s daughter herself, Loretta Lynn. It’s followed by “Prohibition Rose,” a rollicking vaudevillian portrait of the storied bootlegger. We meet famed frontierswoman Calamity Jane in “How The West Was Won,” the most straightforward rock song. Later, on a darker note, “A Million Stars” traces the exploits of teenage outlaws Cattle Annie and Little Britches. And most interestingly, there is a take on bold Ma Rainey hit “Prove It On Me.” Echoing Rainey’s lawless attitude, Flynn handles this quintessential girls’ night out number admirably.
Inevitably, the usually bright songwriting does begin to sag, most notably in the depressive “A Little Low” and gospel-flavored “See That Light,” which, compared to the wit of their neighbors, sound repetitious and lifeless. But for the most part, A Million Stars manages to be genuinely fun. With her undeniable charisma, Flynn brings new life to historical subjects. Though she may keep a steady eye on the classics, she is, quite thankfully, not doomed to merely repeat them.
In A Word: Lively