For all that Manchester’s music scene is brimming with innovation and originality, it is lacking a little in the solo singer-songwriters. Delve deep into the treasure trove that is Manchester’s contemporary music scene and you will only find one or two proud representatives of this venerable genre worth talking about. Ashley Sherlock is one of them.
With a deft ear for an affecting melody and a rich, soaring voice, Sherlock possesses all the tools to be one of the most remarkable solo songwriters to have emerged from Manchester’s mire in quite some time. New single ‘Broken’ was released in November with a video filmed among the grandeur of the ballroom at Gulliver’s in Manchester. As the title suggests, the song is fraught with passionate melancholy. Sherlock is sans band on this track, showcasing the startling power of his voice, which conjures in equal measure images of vulnerability and soulful triumph. Recalling John Frusciante or Jeff Buckley, he masterfully soars between peaks, trembling with emotion and bringing time to a standstill with a performance that belies strength as well as sadness.
Sherlock’s Guitar playing is sumptuous – winsome and staggered, his style puts me in mind of a young John Mayer, before all the showbiz and bullshit rendered him a bland celebrity shill. If Ashley Sherlock can maintain the integrity and the raw, pulsating soul he showcases with his playing here then the sky is the limit. While the guitar playing is impressively intricate, especially for a solo performance, it is not overdone, and provides a rapturously fragile accompaniment to a gorgeous vocal. This is a fantastic Pop song at its heart, constructed with care and sincerity by a skilled writer.
There are aspects of it that feel a little forced. The song’s impassioned coda brings it past the four-minute mark and feels like an unnecessary add-on, even if it does rise and fall epically. ‘Broken’ feels like it should naturally end about 2-and-a-half minutes in. Personally, I could also do without the put-on American accent and the slightly overcooked earnestness of the trembling vocal. The trembling in the voice feels unnatural at times, and it can feel like Sherlock is straining to get the point across that this is a really emotional number.
That said, these are only minor quibbles with what is a beautiful piece of writing from one of Manchester’s utmost shining lights, with a stunning vocal performance throughout. Ashley Sherlock has grown into a captivating writer who possesses one of the most beautiful, emotionally expressive voices in the city. ‘Broken’ is a worthy addition to a growing and exciting oeuvre.