Photo by Jeffrey Dubinsky
Luke & Emily
Luke and Emily Ash recently released a new album called "Good Weld."
It was their strong faith and love of music that brought Luke and Emily Ash together over a decade ago, when they met singing in their then-church, Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Zachary. Now, after years of no-budget recordings and homemade CDs, Baton Rouge-based duo Luke & Emily are finally ready to debut their life and love through a collection of original songs that Luke hesitantly described as “folk rock that is Americana-ish.” Good Weld, released under the name Luke & Emily, features songs that were written by Luke, though the couple has hopes of someday working toward co-writing songs when their busy lives allow. “I used to write songs in high school and college,” Emily said, “but once we got married and started having kids right away, it was hard.”
Though Luke credited his faith as the chief inspiration behind his writing, there is not a heavy-handed moment on the record, even when he is singing a prayer. He joked, “A friend of mine once said, ‘You don’t have to have songs that are high on the “JPMs”’—that’s Jesuses Per Minute. I hate that stuff; it’s not as honest.”
Luke’s subtler approach to on-message music, which blends clever, introspective commentary on everyday life with earworm melodies, reaches well beyond the Christian audience. “I talk about things that humans talk about,” said Luke. “To have songs that are only prayers is neglecting all the other times of your life that are sort of impacted by those prayers, or the inspiration for them.”
Alternating between playful and poignant tones, each track on the album is a sonic tapestry woven with strings, keys, horns, and sharp vocal harmonies. Though produced by Luke and engineered by John Tulley of The Legendary Noise Floor studio, Good Weld is a true collaboration, involving volunteers who offered their time and talents to the project. Of the recording process, Luke said, “A lot of it was letting [the musicians] do what they do; I would say, ‘Here are the bones of the song; I want you to just riff on it.’ Sometimes, I would hum a part or whistle a part for someone, and other times I would just be like, ‘This is Ben Herrington, why in the world would I tell him what to do?’” Herrington (trombone, accordion, keyboard), is one of several professionally-trained artists on the record who help bridge the gap between what Luke calls, “school-of-music musicians” and his own “singer-songwritery” style.
At a January CD-release concert, all eight guest musicians crowded onto or around the stage of Dyson House Listening Room to join Luke & Emily in a live performance of the album. After only one rehearsal, the band, who, in addition to Herrington, included Chad Townsend (drums), Paul Buller (pedal steel and lead guitar), Joel Paul Willson (violin), Clay Parker (banjo), Bob Kling (bass), Eric Schmidt (trumpet), and Rauldol Palacios (cello), was every bit as polished and professional as any touring act with months of performances under its belt.
“It was really interesting to see the practice,” said Emily. “There would be some kind of time issue or a question about a chord, and [Luke] would play it and [the musicians] would hear it and be, like, ‘Oh, that’s in the key of whatever’ and they would all just get it.” Luke added, “I would say, ‘And during this part, I do this.’ And then they would say back to me, ‘Oh, what you are doing is this’ and then say the actual words for it. It’s, like, I play what sounds good, and they know what it’s called.”
While Good Weld is strong from start to finish, stand-out tracks include, “Back to Love,” an upbeat take on the ordinary struggles of day-to-day domestic life and the ensuing petty arguments that every couple experiences, and “Traveler,” the hauntingly sparse and simple final cut that equates an individual’s struggle with faith to traveling on a hard, treacherous road.
Though Dyson House filled every seat for the release, perhaps the biggest fans of Luke & Emily’s album are their children. “They think we are famous,” Luke laughed. “They will say, ‘You’re world famous!’ and I’ll be like, ‘Maybe five people in Haiti have heard the record’—we have friends there—and they’ll be all excited like, ‘Five people! Oh, my gosh!’ It’s a lot of fun.”
Good Weld can be purchased through the Shop Now link on Luke & Emily’s Facebook page: facebook.com/lukeandemilymusic. CDs: $12; digital download: $9.99.