Ashby Frank’s “Midnight Highway”—his first single for Mountain Home Music Company—was No. 1 on this month’s Bluegrass Today chart.
“First of all, I’m very thankful for all of the programmers and listeners that have taken this song all the way to number one,” says Frank. “I’d also like to take this occasion to congratulate the writers of ‘Midnight Highway,’ as Gary Nicholson has been announced as one of the newest inductees of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and Peter Rowan has been announced as one of the newest inductees into the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame. It’s truly an honor to be singing their song. I’m on cloud nine!”
Featuring a harmony vocal from John Cowan and an all-star cast of musicians—Frank’s Mountain Heart bandmates Seth Taylor (guitar) and Travis Anderson (bass), banjoist Matt Menefee, Gaven Largent (dobro), fiddler Jim VanCleve and Josh Hunt (drums)—this version of Rowan’s early 90s classic offers a fresh take on classic newgrass sounds, with Frank’s confidently soaring vocals seizing center stage, relinquishing it only for brief solo turns from Largent and VanCleve.
“I thought it was fitting for the first single from the first solo album that I’ve recorded since I was a teenager to be a song that I grew up listening to and have always loved,” says Frank. “The first time I heard Peter Rowan’s original version of ‘Midnight Highway’ was when I was around 15 years old. I was somewhere in North Carolina with my buddy Jim VanCleve in his old Honda Civic, going to a fiddler’s convention or picking party, and the song has stuck with me ever since then. Having Jim on this track so many years later makes it even more special for me. I hope we did it justice!”
“Midnight Highway” was followed by Frank’s second single, “Jump On It.” From the slinky, syncopated lick that bookends the track to the simmering groove in between, Frank and his all-star friends perfectly capture the song’s sly, countrified humor as it unreels a quirky story: “Granny’s on the front porch spittin’ in a cup, tryin’ to fix a nightgown that the dog tore up / Mama’s old clothesline finally bit the dust, so Brother got a broomstick and propped it back up / Well we could’ve had a dryer or a sewing machine, but Daddy went and bought us a trampoline / And we jump on it every chance we get, Mama and Daddy and all us kids / We ain’t got much but we got this, and we jump on it.”
To those who have followed Frank’s career, the single will come as no surprise, for comedy, and especially country-flavored comedy, has been a persistent thread all along, including the intermittent appearance of his alter ego in comedy duo, The Darrell Brothers.