Rob Massard does things with music that would make the dyed-in-the-wool guardians of folk traditions all hot under the collar. He runs his rootsy sound through an almost progressive filter and cloaks his songs in indie cool and classical grace, adds both ambience and energy to the proceedings, and offers terrific musical alternatives. In short, he helps move forward a genre that has long been too happy to tread water.

Take a song like Don’t Cha Know; strings swoop and soar, guitars chime and charm and his soft vocals wander between lulling and lofty and the whole thing sounds like ELO taking a different generic career path. Slip Away adds just the merest hint of country to the proceedings, The Candidate is angelic, occasionally angular and slightly otherworldly and Rift Hills and Sugar Valleys is sparse and splendid.

If you want to know where folk music goes next, Ascension is a great signpost and vision of what’s to come.

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