Brooklyn Songwriter Combines Chamber Pop with Jazz and Soul. - Brittain Ashford: Hand Wringing/In The Wings
posted 04 Jun 2023 by Krister Axel
The arc of the story of our lives belongs to us alone.

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Brittain Ashford grew up in Seattle, but has since relocated to the East Coast. She now lives in Brooklyn, and her latest release is "Trotter"—recorded during the pandemic in a remote cabin on the Washington/Oregon border with longtime friend and collaborator Mark Robertson. Today we are proud to present a stunning music video for the single "Hand Wringing-In the Wings," which deftly combines Ashford's tendency towards musical chamber pop with a sort of throwaway, vintage-cool aesthetic and some slick choreography.

When Brittain Ashford’s father slipped away in the small hours of an October morning, she had little time to grieve. She was contractually obligated to perform; in fact, it would be months before she was able to even sleep in her own bed, let alone process such a weighty and dark turn of events. By the time she was able to begin the complicated process of mourning, she was convinced that no one would be able to understand. Adrift and consumed by grief, she unceremoniously ended an engagement and found herself attempting to figure out what could possibly come next. It was inevitable that she would turn to her work, as both a source of distraction and catharsis. Her collaboration with Robertson manages to create a world that is both lush and intimate—taken as a complete work of art, "Trotter" is an unblinking meditation on grief and regret, tempered with just a hint of optimism.

Putting a spotlight directly on "Hand Wringing/In The Wings," we find an artistic tone that is more reflective than emotional; here, we have the luxury of a moment with our thoughts. The lesson is, perhaps, that though time is both a constant and unpredictable companion, the arc of the story of our lives belongs to us alone. We ignore that simple fact to our own detriment.

Overall, the type of effortless personality and artistic confidence that I find spilling from the music of Brittain Ashford is rare indeed—the entire album is well worthy of an afternoon spent reveling in the power of songs to explore difficult narratives, in a way that invites discussion as well as personal deliberation. To my mind, the music video presented here encapsulates that sense of dualism: on the surface, everyone is elegant and poised, sipping tea; playing clarinet. But the language of motion is centered around a simple dance step, and the way each dancer interprets that in his or her own way. "Hand Wringing/In The Wings" is at once a celebration of both unity and individual style, and benefits from a musical aesthetic that combines a smoldering core of chamber pop with fringes of both jazz and roots-driven soul.

For a long time I was stalled
Wringing my hands after the final curtain call
I didnt know who I was at all
Just needed some time,
I wanted a choice

I dont want to fight this
My entire sad life Ive been nothing but cautious
And I trusted you too much, we melted our rings
While I was waiting in the wings

Visit Brittain Ashford on Instagram.

Photo credit: Jacki Paolella

Track Notes

Additional remote tracking was done with New York friends Alec Speigleman on clarinet + flute (Cuddle Magic, Lake Street Dive) and long-time right-hand-man Drew Cooper on guitar. Local pals Weeze Ford (The Barbaras) lent her angelic backing vocals, Daniel Hunt (Neko Case, Ages and Ages) added percussion, with Bob Reynolds on drums and Chris Miller on additional piano. Worth noting that Robertson, who engineered the album, tracked his own cello, bass, synth pads, some guitars and backing vocals.

About the Author


Krister Bjornson Axel

Ogdensburg, New York

Paris, France. Madison, Wisconsin. Los Angeles. Ashland, Oregon. Ottawa. I write music, I write about music, and I write code. See also: photography, prose, podcasting. I have 1 gorgeous wife, 2 amazing kids, and many interests.

Recent Awards: 2020 ND (Photo) Honorable Mention, 2020 Accenti Writing Contest Finalist