I had never been exposed to the music of Michael Koppy but on his latest release, he thinks big and immediately grabs your attention.
Ashmore’s Store is actually a book and 10 track-album all wrapped up into one package. The release is about the size of a box set, which holds a 112-paged book. There are lyrics, remembrances, and photos from his days growing up in Tallahassee, Florida, during the 1960s and 1970s. The music is a heartfelt complement to the atmosphere created by the book, as it reaches back to an era that remains only in the minds of an aging population.
There really was an Ashmore’s Store. It was one of those old type general stores that sold everything and where local people hung out to swap stories and pass time. Rob Roy Ashmore and his wife operated the store for 60 years in one of the toughest neighborhoods of the southern city.
Koppy is a product of the South and while he may have spent time in other parts of the country, it is to his roots that he returned for this album. A little country, a dash of folk, and even some blues all coalesce in what can be considered roots music.
If the book and CD combination was different, then the track, “All in the Timing: a Hollywood Romance in Seven Chapters” adds to this release’s uniqueness. It is a 27-minute opus that explores his personal experiences in the entertainment industry. It is more than an introduction to his life during that time, as it is an extension of his formative years (even if it meanders along). This is a track that needs to be listened to in one sitting, because it builds with surprises and contains some twists and turns along the way.
Much of the music draws on his southern experiences. The leadoff track, “One Great Mornin’ (the South’s Gonna Rise Again)” is a no-nonsense presentation of his views. “A Filled-Out Shirt” may run against the grain of what is considered politically correct in our society but it is presented as a fun-filled romp. Songs such as “River,” “Nineteen Years Old,” and “The Cloths of Heaven” demonstrate his skill as a lyricist who is able to translate ordinary events into song. He even manages to give a good translation of the old folk tune, “We Shall Overcome.”
Michael Koppy has extended his musical vision and united it with his personal roots, which has resulted in an out of the ordinary release. It all adds up to a release well worth exploring.