• Bryon Harris

Erin Ash Sullivan - "Train From Gary"

Review by Patrick Joseph

“Train From Gary” is a touching and emotional musical opus. A timeless rhythm section and a sweeping steel guitar create a rich bed over which Sullivan can croon. A rhythmic and lyrically dense melody seems to effortlessly unfold in this lovely piece of music. A full-sounding band and intricately layered vocal tracks create a dreamlike and whimsical sound.

Lyrically, “Train From Gary” poses unanswered questions to Sullivan’s late grandmother. A brilliant lyrical device, this technique tells us a riveting story.

“And how’d it feel to board that train, your hands against the windowpane, and say goodbye to Gary, Indiana.”

Sullivan’s intimate connection to the subject matter is palpable.

“And what’d you say when you turned in your keys to your tiny room and your melodies and said goodbye to dreams of New York City... Man, I wished I’d asked you for your stories.”

These down-to-earth lyrics match the emotional tone of the music perfectly.

“Train From Gary” is arranged to pack a punch. A classic train-beat and two feel bass line sit nicely underneath rhythmic acoustic strumming and expressive pedal steel melodies. Sullivan’s vocals are strong without ever sounding strained. A beautiful B-section melody is reminiscent of the great Emmy Lou Harris. Well-constructed and chock-full of inspired lyrics, “Train From Gary” will have you invested from start to finish.

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About Erin Ash Sullivan

Massachusetts-based singer-songwriter Erin Ash Sullivan considers herself a New Englander at heart, although her family didn’t settle permanently in the Northeast until she was in middle school. Her first 12 years were marked by thousands of miles logged in a 1972 Volkswagen camper van as her family trekked from Maryland to Massachusetts to California to Scotland and back again to California, before putting on the brakes in a small rural town in central Massachusetts. Those many moves gave Erin a first-hand understanding of the close relationship between geography and perspective, an appreciation for being able to put down roots and call a place home, and an encyclopedic knowledge of the ABBA discography.

Music was always a central part of Erin’s life, with piano and voice lessons from her grandmother, herself an accomplished musician and performer. Erin didn’t start playing guitar or writing music until she graduated from Amherst College and was living in New York City, where a minuscule elementary school teacher’s salary and an even more minuscule 9×12’ apartment made guitar playing suddenly seem like an appealing pastime. In New York, Erin reconnected with college friend Amy Speace, and together they founded the band Edith O. They performed regularly at New York City venues including the Bitter End and CBGB’s Gallery and released an album, Tattooed Queen, which garnered critical raves. It is possible that the band broke up when Erin—who was at the time a sleep-deprived mother of a six-week-old—forgot to show up at the Bitter End for the band’s record release show.

In subsequent years, marriage, children, and a career as a teacher, school administrator, and published author took center stage, but in 2018, Erin jumped back in the pool, and the warm welcome of the Boston-area open mic community encouraged her to return to composing music and performing.


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