[25 May 2009]
No one can doubt Ashley Cleveland’s devotion to Jesus. The Grammy Award winning Christian rocker has made that abundantly clear for over a decade of full-length, heaven-inspired albums. This time she’s applying her gritty Southern vocals to black gospel music, a dozen tunes made famous by the likes of Blind Willie Johnson, Rev. Gary Davis, the Edwin Hawkins Singers, as well as obscure songs whose origins have been lost over time. Cleveland takes the songs head on. Her faith is strong. Her voice fervent. She’s a clear-eyed believer who doesn’t let herself be carried away by passion. This is a good thing because she’s not one of those tug at your sleeve fanatics that try to convert you. Cleveland would rather stand/sing as a shining example of what her religion has done for her. Her talents are best displayed on songs like “Denomination Blues” where Cleveland articulates that it doesn’t matter how you interpret the holy word, but that you need to treat other people right. Word.