Ashley Cooke: ‘Shot In The Dark’ Debut Album Review

Ashley Cooke’s debut album, Shot In The Dark is out now, July 21st on all streaming platforms. Listen to the brand new music here.

With a voice that’s powerful yet personable and an approachable style of lyricism that hearkens back to the early days of Taylor Swift or Kelsea Ballerini, country newcomer Ashley Cooke offers her powerful debut, shot in the dark, out now.

Of the 24 tracks on her Big Loud/ Back Blocks Music release, Cooke co-penned all but four, collaborating with Nashville heavy hitters ranging from fellow artists like Colbie Caillat, Lainey Wilson, and Ryan Hurd to acclaimed songwriters like Josh Kerr, Nicolle Galyon, and Josh Osborne. 

For the Parkland, Florida native, who began gaining buzz on TikTok during the Covid pandemic, this album release is the logical next step. “The last year of my life has been crazy and wonderful in so many ways, but I think the next year might be even better…It’s been full of bucket list moments for me… I made my Opry debut, signed my first deals, went on tours with my heroes, and lived a lot of life in the moments in between. This album is about all of that — and it’s about the magic that can come if you really take risks in life and love,” shared the singer-songwriter. “I can’t wait for each of you to hear it. Thank you to everyone who helped get me here, and thank you for making me feel so safe to take a shot in the dark.”

The album’s title track is just one of many standouts, a simple ode to the path to a new love, found unexpectedly in a dark bar and aided by some liquid courage. “Last call, first kiss a little bit drunk // Who knew two straight tequilas on a debit card // Would wind us up right where we are,” She sings. “So here’s to, two strangers in the back of a bar // Taking a shot in the dark.”

Likewise, songs like “next to you,” “good thing going,” and “back in the saddle” also celebrate the bloom of new love and the excitement that comes along with it. “next to you” is an especially poignant and sparse ballad that finds Cooke celebrating the type of love she didn’t know existed. “I’ve been living dreams lately // but they don’t hold a candle to // waking up next to you.” Similarly, the wedding-ready “never ‘til now” finds Cooke trading verses with Brett Young as they celebrate the person that makes everything makes sense. “I never wanted to tap my brakes // I never wanted to settle down // I was always one foot out the door // I never thought about turning ’round // Never saw myself with a white picket fence dug into the ground // Never ’til now”

Other duets contribute stellar moments on Cooke’s debut, enlisting rising country stars like Nate Smith and Jackson Dean, in addition to Caillat. Smith joins the singer-songwriter on the double entendre, heartbreak-laden “see you around,” while Dean lends his raspy voice to ““what are you on fire about?,” which finds the pair musing that the flame between them has burned out.

Meanwhile, it’s her blistering duet with Caillat that enables her to make a statement, similar to that of Carly Pearce’s hit “Next Girl.” Here, the pair trade verses about a toxic ex, warning his new girlfriend to be cautious with her new beau.

“This ain’t me being mean, girl // I just hate to see a good heart hangin’ on a string, girl // It sure looks a lot like love // But what you don’t see girl // Is all those cards slid so far up his sleeve girl // When he says you’re the only one //  Take it from me, yeah it’s just another thing // That he doesn’t mean, girl // Aw that he doesn’t mean, girl”

That honesty continues throughout the album, weaving its way through songs like “getting into,”  “gonna get,” and “tryin’ to love you.” On the former, she’s warning a suitor to be prepared for a relationship. “Before you get into my car, into my bed, into my heart, my head,” She warns. “Know what you’re getting into.” Meanwhile, “tryin’ to love you” has her caught up with someone who is perfect on paper, but isn’t quite clicking. “It ain’t your fault // it’s hard to start a fire when you can’t make one spark fly // the trouble with trying to love you // is I shouldn’t have to try.”

Relationships ending are a prevalent theme throughout the LP, weaving its way through tracks like “tastes like,” “moving on with grace,” “i almost do,” “your place,” and “build a bridge.” What Cooke does brilliantly here is show every aspect of a relationship ending and the range of emotions. The album opener, “tastes like” finds her comparing whiskey to a former flame, while “i almost do” has her struggling not to reach out to an ex. On “moving on with grace,” Cooke cleverly finds solace at the bar, unapologetically drowning her sorrows in Jack Daniels, while her ex has moved on with a girl named Grace. 

Cooke also shines on ballads, including “enough to leave,” which finds her knowing she’s not right for someone and loving them enough to move on. Meanwhile, “it’s been a year” is a poignant look at how fast time passes and how much things can change in one year. “And I ain’t sayin’ it ain’t been a good one // It’s been a did a lot more than I thought I could one // It’s been three hundred sixty five of record lows and record highs // Loving and losing, fun and confusing, praying and shifting gears // For the minute you got, it’s probably a lot, more than you wanna hear // So all I’ll say is, it’s been a year”

The album’s closing track is one of its strongest standouts, as “state i’m in” is an especially poignant ballad that has her grappling with being a young touring artist while also comparing herself to her peers. With her pristine voice shining over twangy guitars, she examines her place in life.

Speaking to Whiskey Riff, she revealed of the song, “I was in a tour van, touring around the country as we do as young artists, and I was scrolling through Instagram and I was seeing so many of my friends posting that they’re getting married, or having babies, and all these exciting things in their life. And I was just so excited for them.  And I took a deep breath and I realized, like, ‘Wow, I’m so excited for them and I’m so happy for me that I’m in such a different phase of my life than they are.’ And it’s beautiful that we can have such different lives at the same age…”

On Shot In The Dark, Ashley Cooke is unfiltered and unfettered, positioning herself as a powerful female country artist for the next generation.

Country Swag Picks:

  1. see you around (with Nate Smith)
  2. mean girl (with Colbie Caillat)
  3. shot in the dark
  4. moving on with grace
  5. state i’m in
  6. enough to leave

Shot In The Dark Track List:

  1. tastes like (Ashley Cooke, Jordan Minton, Emily Weisband, Corey Crowder)
  2. it’s been a year (Ashley Cooke, Will Weatherly, Brett Tyler)
  3. see you around (feat. Nate Smith) (Ashley Cooke, Brett Tyler, Will Bundy)
  4. shot in the dark (Ashley Cooke, Jordan Minton, Emily Weisband, Corey Crowder)
  5. moving on with grace (Ashley Cooke, Rocky Block, Jake Mitchell)
  6. getting into (Ashley Cooke, Emily Weisband, Will Weatherly)
  7. enough to leave (Ashley Cooke, Matt Roy, Lauren Weintraub)
  8. i almost do (Ashley Cooke, Trevor Rosen, Josh Osborne)
  9. mean girl (feat. Colbie Caillat) (Ashley Cooke, Colbie Caillat, Nicolle Galyon, Jimmy
  10. Robbins)
  11. running back (Ashley Cooke, Emily Weisband, Will Weatherly)
  12. good thing going (Ashley Cooke, Matt Dragstrem, Brett Tyler, Geoff Warburton)
  13. next to you (Ashley Cooke)
  14. good to be back (Ashley Cooke, Hunter Phelps, Jameson Rodgers, Alysa Vanderheym)
  15. what are you on fire about (feat. Jackson Dean) (Lainey Wilson, Jason Nix, Luke  Dick)
  16. say no more (Devin Dawson, Donovan Woods, Travis Wood)
  17. tryin’ to love you (Ashley Cooke, Hillary Lindsey, Chase McGill, Jimmy Robbins)
  18. back in the saddle (Josh Kerr, Jordan Reynolds, Jordan Minton)
  19. your place (Ashley Cooke, Jordan Minton, Mark Trussell)
  20. dirt on ’em (Ashley Cooke, Jessi Alexander, Aysa Vanderheym)
  21. build a bridge (Sasha Sloan, Ryan Hurd, Geoff Warburton, Henry Agincourt Allen)
  22. get you (Ashley Cooke, Jacob Durrett, John Byron)
  23. never til now (Ashley Cooke, Matt Roy)
  24. gonna get (Ashley Cooke, Sasha Sloan, Blake Pendergrass, David Garcia)
  25. state i’m in (Ashley Cooke, Emily Weisband, Jordan Reynolds)

Ashley Cooke’s debut album, ‘Shot In The Dark’ is officially out now.

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A Shot In The Dark is available everywhere you buy or stream music. Take a listen below and check out more new recently released tunes on our ‘New Country Music’ playlist. Be sure to give the playlist a follow for your weekly new country music fix.