“We’re really fortunate to have a lot of friends here in Fort Wayne that are in the country music scene,” says Hubie Ashcraft, one-half of the country outfit Allan and Ashcraft. Of course he’s right. With the exception of “American Idol,” the process of musical artists “making it” is one that’s shrouded in mystery. We don’t often see the rough beginnings, the crappy record deals, the seedy bars or bowling alleys played in. What we see is a shiny product of our love and money. For many artists it’s an arduous journey with no guarantee that anything will ever pay off. But for some, like Allan and Ashcraft, it’s not such a long way to the top.
A little more than a year after first teaming up in January 2011, Allan and Ashcraft are quickly climbing their way up the scales of musical recognition. They have already signed a celebrity producer, and they book gigs in Nashville on a monthly basis. Their rocket launch to country music fame began with the trifecta of great musicianship, good timing and of course, knowing a guy.
Before there was Allan and Ashcraft, there was Shakin’ Bake, the band that brought Allan Miller and Hubie Ashcraft together. While recording, Shakin’ Bake had brought on a session guitar player, one Kenny Greenberg, a man who has produced and played with country music royalty. “He’s worked with and produced a lot of records from some of our heroes – Brooks and Dunn, Edwin McCain, Faith Hill and lot of country stars,” said Ashcraft
The duo hit it off with Greenberg right away. “He really understood where we wanted to go with our music,” said Ashcraft, and when Shakin’ Bake broke up, Allan and Ashcraft were able to launch a new musical venture in a direction that was more personal to each of them. Greenberg turned out to be a great ally in the world of music and a guide to navigate the straightest path to success. “Just to be able to work with him was a huge honor and a thrill. He helped open some door for us in Nashville to work with some really great musicians,” said Ashcraft.
The success of Allan and Ashcraft was more than having friends in high places; it was timing as well. “Here in Fort Wayne, country music is more popular than it’s ever been,” Ashcraft told whatzup. “I think it’s more accessible than it’s ever been as well. Before it had certain parameters, but now I think a lot of those walls have been knocked down.”
This is evident in the surge of new country music venues that have popped up recently and hyped country music events. This July, for example, Allan and Ashcraft will get the chance to share their musical abilities while paying homage to their heroes in a country version of the celebrated annual Down The Line concert at the Embassy Theater. The duo will be playing the music of Kenny Chesney.
It was those heroes that inspired the duo to make the music they love so much. “We want it to be music that touches people the way that our influences have touched us,” Ashcraft said.
The duo’s latest single, “Way Back When,” is a song written from a personal place, reminiscing over the lost glory of high school days, but written so their fans can reminisce right along with them. “It’s about stories and story songs, and I think that’s what great country music is. You know, people like Merle Haggard and Hank Williams can really paint a picture with words and make you feel the exact way that they felt in any given situation. Those are the things that draw me to country music.”
It’s that heart and love of country music that have been the biggest driving force in this dedicated group’s rapid rise to fame. Their music mixes a strong country twang and elements of bluegrass along with traces of classic rock. There are pieces of many contemporary country stars like Brad Paisley and Toby Keith and hints of less traditional country musicians like The Zack Brown Band.
While their musical style is a reflection of Miller and Ashcraft, they travel with a full band – including drums, mandolin, bass, fiddle and extra guitars – to fill out their live sound.
Allan and Ashcraft will be heading back out to Nashville soon – to Honky Tonk Central or Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, two homes away from home for the band. Beyond that they’re planning gigs as far away as Florida and Vegas, which isn’t too surprising. With the fast track to success they have taken since last January, it may not be much longer till we all see their name in lights.
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