Who Is Ashley Cleveland ?

Ashley Cleveland hails from Knoxville Tennessee and is best known as a rock gospel singer songwriter. She has credits on over three hundred albums and has released ten CDs of her own. In 1991 she released her debut album Big Town on Atlantic Records before moving to Reunion; in 1993 Bus Called Desire won Ashley her first Grammy Award. Between 1993 and 2009, six more albums followed; Lesson of Love, You Are There, Second Skin, Men and Angels Say, Before The Daylight's shot and finally, God Don't Change. There is a definite blues sound in some of her music, played out on a stunning pink guitar, sure to strike a chord with the girls!

Throughout her albums, there are hints of faith, hope, love, interspersed with snippets of Cleveland's tumultuous past. She has said, however, that she often thinks the listener hears more than she consciously intends with her songs; that is not, to say, however that there is not a subconscious message buried deep within her lyrics. I suspect this may be the case, but maybe that is open to interpretation by the listener. Her theory is " I think the entire body of work that I have pretty much capitalizes on one of three themes, and usually all three are in tandem somewhere, and those themes are hope, despair, and sex. How those all kind of dovetail with one another depends on how I'm doing at the time. I mean, I am certainly not a stranger to despair, and yet I feel like I have a great deal of hope. I've always had that, and it has sustained me." Maybe that is why her writing and performance seem to accessible and so relatable.

At one point she was the single mother of an eight year old; now happily married to Kenny Greenberg and mom of three, perhaps it is natural that her music would seem to convey more positivity and happiness. She certainly recognises that she is in a better place than she was back then.

Part of her skill lies in her ability to combine original songs with her own 'takes' on well known hymns and have them all complement each other.

Clearly connected to the Church Community and her faith, she manages to convey this in her music without it ever feeling like she is preaching. Never was this more obvious than when she performed her in the Uk as part of the Transatlantic Sessions tour, where she literally rocked out and raised the roof, leaving everyone wondering they hadn't heard of her before. I had, as it happened, but very little.

To listen to songs such as Lesson of Love, Rock in a Weary Land, Bus Named Desire, You Gotta Move, Gimme Shelter, Come Thou Font and When This World Comes to an End amongst others, it does baffle me that we haven't heard more of her in the UK, of not on general radio, then on Christian and Gospel shows on BBC and other outlets. Hopefully those who saw her with Transatlantic Sessions will see fit to give her increasing exposure.

I'd like to think that it could be the beginning of the UK finding its own little place in her musical journey. Watch this space. Only time will tell.

Helen Mitchell


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