Maybe you’ve heard of ANSLEY “THE DESTROYER” DOUGHERTY? The ubiquitous Ansley tirelessly embraces every musical opportunity available to her. She works with all of Fort Worth’s heavy hitters, from music maven Big Mike Richardson, to her locally loved club act Panic Volcanic. She’s had her own radio show on 97.5 The Pirate. She’s been an artist-in-residence at several local venues including Magnolia Motor Lounge, Dr. Jeckyll’s Beer Lab (Pantego, TX), and now-defunct Live Oak Lounge. Wielding ukulele and piano, she’s worked hard to infuse Fort Worth’s nightlife with tasteful covers and crafted original tunes.
Another notable, local, free periodical dubbed her “Best Songwriter” this year; the scene is set for her latest release, which dropped July 21 at M.A.S.S. Rituals represents a thoughtful example of her craft. It’s undeniably well-done, and it was clearly a labor of love for all involved in its creation.
Backed by an all-star band (Kris Luther, Matt Mabe, Eric Webb and Matt Tedder) and produced and recorded by Taylor Tatsch (Audiostyles), Rituals has a big slow-pop sound kin to Fleetwood Mac. Ansley’s vocals have plenty of space, and she treats melody and harmony with sophistication. Forceful moments abound, but they never come across as over-the-top.
Rituals is full of sentimental moments, and it’s easier listening than one might anticipate. I expected some heavier, more rocking tunes, but was pleasantly surprised by what I heard instead. Again, this marks an aesthetic departure for Ansley, or at least an embellishment of her solo sound. Even though this record is miles away from Panic Volcanic, it still feels like a natural, sensible choice for her voice at the end of the day, this album feels genuine and crafted.
If there had been a few more opportunities for her band to stretch their legs, this record would have checked all of my boxes. There are instrumental solos, but no new territory is sought out. The spot-on, locked rhythm section somehow feels hobbled at times, locked into a specific feel and mood. Ample attention was duly paid to the vocal, and the emphasis is definitely to showcase Ansley’s prowess as a singer. There is a pervading restraint here, and songs like “Merely” are served to excellent ends. Other moments on the album could be enhanced by heartfelt performances that counter Ansley’s own strong performance.
Okay, enough nit-picking.
The Destroyer’s timbre is sweet; her mellow contralto leads are couched in thoughtful harmonies—the music washes over the listener. There is really good stuff here. Every song has a strong groove, and Ansley’s vocal strength is in the forefront. The grooves on the songs are strong, tight-pocketed undercurrents to Ansley’s tempest-tossed craft. The players are serving these songs, suffusing flesh to healthy, strong bones. Time will tell if this record will bridge Ansley to her obvious destiny—collectively everyone is pulling for her.
I really like the direction that Dougherty is taking her music, and Rituals explores territory we haven’t heard from her before. This is a polished record. It’s got legs, and with a dream roster behind her, Ansley will not fail. Capitalizing on her current momentum will come easily to her. For her, doing the hard work comes naturally. I look forward to her upcoming live shows, and cannot wait to see where she takes us from here.