179. Big Town – Ashley Cleveland
BIG TOWN (1991)
I remember hearing about this blond with a monster voice that had appeared on “everybody’s” albums, and regularly with one of my musical heroes, John Hiatt had signed a mainstream record deal with Atlantic. But nothing prepared me for the pushing play on my CD players and the a capella vocal strains of “Soon and Very Soon” busted through the clutter of modern music with sledge hammer. Damn, what a voice!
Then i was even more pleasantly surprised to discover an album rich in textures, loaded with incredible talent and filled with brilliantly conceived and produced songs. There is really not a dud on the entire project. Of course Cleveland could also sing Presbyterian Book of Church Order and make it sound like Maggies Farm.
I soon discovered Cleveland was an artist and not just a voice; a singer-songwriter with credentials to spare. But still I come back to that voice. Throwing out comparisons and superlatives will do her pipes no justice. A wonderful combination of Joplin passion, Slick rock cred and a bluesy, smokey vibe that is unmatched.
In all honesty this should not have been the only album of hers to make list and that oversight is purely mine. That notwithstanding her debut here stands out heads and shoulders above most of her contemporaries and like nothing else in CCM at the time. I highly recommend her recent traditional blues and Gospel projects as well.