Ahead of Lawrence concerts, singer Ashley Davis discusses Kansas inspiration for newest album
photo by: Contributed photo
Ashley Davis did not initially realize the inspiration for the title track of her new album when she wrote it, she said.
For her newest album, “Burning Down,” she chose to focus on the theme of destruction and regeneration, and it came to her only later that that seed was planted during her childhood on the plains of her native Kansas.
“I realized I got this concept from my childhood watching the prairies burn,” she said, referring to farmers and ranchers burning acreage to help rejuvenate the land. “It was a pretty cool epiphany to realize that I connected something from deep in my roots to a concept for an album.”
Davis — a Celtic singer-songwriter who splits her time between Lawrence, New York City and touring internationally — wrote the title track “Burning Down” a year before beginning the writing process for the album itself. While performing the song, which features lyrics about a person’s life “burning down,” she said she realized it had a strong effect on her audiences.
“People would come up to me after the show to tell me very emotional stories or hard times they had gotten through,” she said.
Their stories helped Davis understand that everyone goes through periods of destruction and regeneration, whether it be recovering from the death of a loved one or finding a new path after losing a job. When people go through those periods, they often come out stronger on the other side, she said.
Davis will officially celebrate the release of the album with two performances in Lawrence, which are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Wednesday, Dec. 5, at the Lied Center, 1600 Stewart Drive. Tickets are $25.
photo by: Contributed photo
Davis tries to release a new album every two years, and she performs in Lawrence every holiday season, bringing her music home to share with the community that raised her.
“I always love to come home to do it,” she said.
The location of the release celebration is fitting, as the album comes full circle with its final track, “Take Me Home.” She said the song focuses on “understanding your roots.”
“The prairie has some type of deep draw for all of us (Kansans) and it’s something I’ve explored within myself,” she said. “I’m happy and proud that it shines through my music and I’m hailing my homeland through my job.”
For the performance, Davis will be joined on the stage by the Irish band Lúnasa for the second year in a row. Last year the band, one of Ireland’s most acclaimed traditional Celtic groups, made its debut in Lawrence. The five-piece, all-instrumental band also released a new album, “Cas,” earlier this year.
photo by: File photo
After the Lawrence shows, Davis will continue to perform with Lúnasa as the band’s guest vocalist during its “Christmas From Ireland” tour.
Davis said the band’s music may resonate with Kansans and many other Americans because bluegrass music is closely related to the traditional music from Ireland and Scotland. She said both genres focus on similar topics, including the scenery of rural life and the feeling of love.
“And drinking,” she said with a laugh. “They both also focus on drinking.”
The performances in Lawrence will be a mix of holiday music, songs from her new album as well as Irish jigs and reels. The Saturday show will also feature special guest Cormac de Barra, a harp player from Dublin.
“I try to bring in guests the community wouldn’t normally see,” she said. “I want the community to see something that’s unique and special like this.”