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The Grapes

A musical merging of Australian singer songwriters Ashley Naylor and Sherry Rich.
As 'the grapes' they have released two albums, the grapes self - titled debut in 1999 and the grapes 'western sun' in 2013.

The Grapes ripen with Western Sun
By Michael Dwyer
July 2013

SONGWRITERS don't measure the distance between innocence and experience in years. The great ones nail it right between verses, or even in a finely judged chord change. It's in the turn of a melody or an ambiguous phrase. Still, a few thousand sunsets never hurt.

Western Sun is the Grapes' first album since their classic, self-tilted debut of 1999. That's several lifetimes for musicians as prolific as Ashley Naylor and Sherry Rich. Apart, they've made a ton of records and raised four kids. Reunited, they've found their psychedelic-country chemistry has grown richer, darker and infinitely deeper.

"We had a loose concept based around paternal and maternal love, lost innocence, the inevitable process of getting older and looking back; protection, longing and redemption," says Ashley, known by day as leader of power-pop trio Even, and guitar-slinger for Paul Kelly and RocKwiz Orchestra.

"There's sweetness but not without shadows," says Sherry, variously known as that voice from Girl Monstar, the Mudcakes, the Rich Family Band and solo artist in her own right. "The songs we’ve written reflect a more introspective side influenced by experience," she says. "Art follows life, after all."

So it does, in gritty and swooning songs of lifelong love, separation, loss, longing and reunion that dwell in the twangsome twilight between childhood dreams and grown up sighs, bookended by an instrumental title track that rings like an invocation of pure melancholy.

In between, the unconditional devotion of "Step Inside" answers the youthful confusion of "Mama (Why You Hurt Me So)", while "Lily Darling" and "The Boy Who Could Not Sleep" join hands in the unspoken empathy of blood siblings.

"In the Night Pasture"'s breathtaking valley of stars is the Panavision backdrop for the spur-jangling showdown of "Make It Out Alive" and the bittersweet nostalgia of "Cowboys and Indians"; the grim determination of "The Storm Is Rising" and the penultimate, poetic embrace of "Brother Don't Cry For Me".

"To me, it feels like a concept album or the soundtrack to a movie never made," says Sherry. "The characters could just as easily inhabit West Footscray in 2013 or West Virginia in 1840."

The players, though, could only come from the countless pubs and studios of the last quarter century where Johnny Cash and John Lennon are equal partners in legend. Ashley's tie-dyed beat-pop sensibility and Sherry's wood-grained country sob have mellowed through the exuberance of their 1999 debut to lay back like an easy whistle over a strummed acoustic guitar.

"We love the same kinds of music," she says. "I’m a little bit country, he’s a little bit rock and roll. We’re both redheads and vegetarians. It all adds up.
To me, Western Sun, is a unique and precious body of work that is a signpost of where Ashley and I have come together on our journey as songwriters and as humans."

"One of the joys of The Grapes," he adds, "is our respective ability to keep surprising each other. Even a word or a chord can take a song into a new realm. We have a mutual trust in each other's vision."

Where it leads them from here is no more predictable than this astonishing album might have been in those long-lost and innocent days of 1999. But even if they're gone for another few thousand sunsets, there's more than enough to ponder and cherish in Western Sun to keep the campfires burning.

"One thing I love about The Grapes is our lack of adherence to a timeline or career path," says Ashley. "It's not a side project as such but a duo unto itself which emerges from time to time when circumstances allow.

"We don't know if we'll do another album within the next decade. Not knowing is part of the joy."