The soulful, well-traveled voice of Ashley Cleveland provides a perfect vehicle to convey the tension between heaven and earth…

One More Song

Ashley Cleveland 

204  Records                                                                                                                                                      

12 tracks / 49:56

What could be more welcome to fans of spiritually-oriented rock and roll than a new album by the great Ashley Cleveland? One More Song is Ashley at her powerful, soulful best, backed by the strong guitar work and production of her husband, session-man extraordinaire Kenny Greenberg. The multi Grammy Award winning Cleveland brings her signature sound and considerable vocal chops to twelve songs covering the gamut of American styles. Folk, gospel, country and blues are all represented, mixed with a healthy dose of rock and roll just when you need it.

From the heartfelt “Take Me To The Water” (accompanied only by acoustic guitar with a hint of church organ coming in near the end), to the bluesy hard-edged boogie of “Cool Down by the Banks of Jordan,” to the raucous rock of “Lily Grown Wild,” One More Song is a sample-pack of all that Cleveland does best, and without question, she’s at the top of her game.

With the exception of “Halfway Down,” which is written by Jim Lauderdale, One More Song is a collection of new songs written or co-written by Ashley, along with her fresh arrangements of some gospel standards. The very personal project is a revealing look at what has influenced the artist musically as well as what drives her emotionally and spiritually. Songs about family, life-struggles, and reflections on the dynamics between the spirit and the flesh intersect with songs that reach toward a heavenly reality. The soulful, well-traveled voice of Ashley Cleveland provides a perfect vehicle to convey the tension between heaven and earth…

Highlights are many. Fans of Phil Keaggy will recognize “Ezekiel 2” (co-written by Keaggy and Cleveland) from the master-guitarist’s recent project, All At Once, where the song was performed in a different musical context, and as a duet with Ashley. Here, it’s less bluesy, faster, and more of a rocker, kicking off like a combination of “She’s a Woman” and “My Sharona.” “To Be Good” and “Crooked Heart” show Ashley’s more vulnerable side with poetic, confessional lyrics in a more low-key setting. Greenberg’s guitar on these moody pieces are reminiscent of legendary guitarist Robin Trower’s hypnotic “Song For a Dreamer” style.

“Walk in Jerusalem” and “Lily Grown Wild” rock relentlessly, giving a taste of what an extraordinary guitar slinger Greenberg is. The album’s title-track is a strong country rock ballad with an air of sadness about it and a great hook in the chorus. Although I don’t know if this is a fact, the songs basically sound like they were recorded mostly live in the studio. If I’m wrong, then more tribute to the production skills of Kenny Greenberg. For the most part the band features Steve Mackey on bass, drums by Nick Buda, organ by Reese Wynans, Keyboards by John Deaderick, and of course Kenny Greenberg on electric guitar. Ashley Cleveland plays acoustic guitar and, of course, sings lead vocals with occasional back-up by Tania Hancheroff and Wendy Moten.

After playing it only a few times, I’m inclined to think that One More Song is the best, most well-balanced and satisfying work of Ashley Cleveland’s career. Every song works on its own merit and nothing sounds forced or contrived. Right down to the package artwork and photography – by Jimmy Abegg and Ben Pearson, respectively – One More Song is a classic. This album will certainly be getting much more than one more listen.

Bert Saraco

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