Sound: Sparkle Plenty, the new CD from singer-songwriter Ashley Lennon Thomas is filled with optimism and healing words. The spiritual drops in the gospel-tinged choruses of Wait In The Water create a slow rising elevation along dunes of shooting guitar riffs, while the valences of folksy pop pattering in Honey Wild bask the listener in sunny tones and trampoline-jumping beats. The slow line-kicks of Hard Headed Woman show a feisty temper which slides into the frothy horns of Like I Can and folksy saloon-frocked guitar strums. The rhythmic beats move like a well-oiled machine as the winding guitar chords and wavelets of horns give the melody some fire. The funky rock pivots of Sneaky Pie deliver Lenny Kravitz-like grooves and a Lenny Kravity-like smooth soul coasting in Only Time.
Thomas' shades of blues have a folksy tilt, and her soul has a gospel-slant. The quakes in the rhythmic knolls are slight and the guitar strings fluff up the melodic reels to a cotton cloud plushness like in Black Coffee. The country-folk trundles of Hit The Road and For Sure are liken to Kellie Pickler with lush grassy fields of guitar strings that pick up Americana-styled licks in Highway Song. The country-pop gallops of Buick City Complex have a festive square dance ring and cheery rhythmic bumps as the lead vocals alternate between Thomas and Lynn Coulter, and the bluesy country gusts of Blue and Bones are stilt with gently cruising sways. Thomas' country-folk swagger has a Neil Young buckling and a melodic-pop shimmer liken to Sara Bareilles. // 7
Lyrics: Thomas' lyrics speak about daily situations and emotions that people deal with each day like in Black Coffee when she craves for satisfaction, Got a fire in the kitchen / Sure to wake me up / Forget your lovin' and affection / Got a brewin' in my cup / Black coffee, gonna wash my blues away / Mmmmm darlin' / Gotta face another day / Well, you treated me so badly that I felt just like a fool / Because you know I love you madly / But you're mean and you're cruel / Black coffee / Oh you know it makes me high / I'm a black coffee woman / Lord, until the day I die. And then sometimes, her lyrics are in third person like in Wait In The Water when she depicts, She don't care for the small steps / She leaps and she bounds / She's got world of forgiveness where your faults can be found / She makes all her resources look like silver and gold / She's got all the right touches to make you feel right at home / She was raised in the valley of those hot desert nights / There was never much brightness She did all that she could to keep it peaceful at home / She knew she was better than the life she was shown / So wait in the water / Wait for me / I will follow wherever you lead / I will walk through the smoke covered screens / If you'll wait for me. // 7
Overall Impression: In this case, Ashley Lennon Thomas' youth works against her showing her inexperience, and makes her sound like a young girl attempting to be a sultry Mae West in tracks like Black Coffee and Buick City Complex. For fans of Jo-Jo, Kellie Pickler, and the cast of High School Musical, Sparkle Plenty has that level of musicality. For older audiences, Thomas sounds unripe and sings the songs with a distant attachment to the verses. Thomas is a singer for tomorrow but today she is a young lady still growing into her own, dipping her feet in various pools of water like a kid that wants to do it all, but needs to learn what suits her best and feels right with her tonality. // 7