"There is a woman in the room," Ashley Cleveland announces on "Queen of Soul," the rousing lead-off track from her latest release, Before the Daylight’s Shot. Though she may be singing about Aretha Franklin, that simple declaration could double as Cleveland’s own motto as an artist.
In a music scene overpopulated by breathy girls and melismatic vamps, Cleveland is that rare thing - a woman who sings like a woman. A woman with grit and passion. A woman who’s not afraid to follow her longings into places both light and dark. Yes, she can roar and wail with maximum soul wattage (her voice inspires regular comparisons to locomotives and hurricanes). But she can also be soft, tender, sly, wistful, open-hearted, melancholy, wise, seductive, wry - all those facets that make a vocalist deep and compelling. And whether she’s delivering a regretful ballad like "Streams Of Mercy" or a mighty rocker like "The Blessing," she connects emotionally with a strength and clarity that would make Cingular jealous.
It’s that emotional connection - a combo of Cleveland’s natural wonder of a voice and fierce songwriting talent - that has been thrilling listeners since her debut in 1991. Blending rock, blues, gospel and folk with her distinct open-tuned guitar playing, she has forged an unmistakable sound that has won her two Grammy Awards, three Dove Awards, a place on countless year-end Top Ten lists and a legion of devoted fans.
Beyond her own career, Cleveland is also one of Nashville’s most in-demand session singers, having performed on over three hundred albums, for artists including Emmylou Harris, John Hiatt, Jars Of Clay, Don Henley, Amy Grant, Faith Hill, Delbert McLinton, Etta James, Rodney Crowell, Pam Tillis, Patty Smyth and Michael McDonald.
Her seventh album, Before The Daylight’s Shot, finds Cleveland at the height of her powers. Whether she’s singing about purpose ("Ready Or Not"), faith ("Deeper Walk"), fulfillment (a bluesy take on Stevie Wonder’s "Higher Ground") or enduring married love ("Twilight Hour"), there’s a clear-eyed maturity and depth of artistry that lifts her into an exclusive class.
She was the first ever artist to win the Best Gospel Rock Album award at the Grammys in 1996. She won the award again in 1999.
Ashleycleveland.com Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply.