A Little News, A Lot Of Gratitude

Ashley in York, PA in 1995.

Ashley with her son Henry in York, PA on the Brother's Keeper Tour in 1995.

I am thinking this morning on how a chance encounter in York, PA led to one of the most consistent, foundational tools of my career.  Rose showed up at a show I played with Rich Mullins in an old theatre and asked me if I had ever thought about having a web site.  This was 1995 and my knowledge of computers consisted of my exposure to Hal on 2001, A Space Odyssey.  As you may recall, Hal was a villain.  She offered to create one for me and followed through promptly and brilliantly.  She has been following through ever since, creating and recreating with the twists and turns of technology.  I am frequently complimented on my web site but I am quick to disclaim and put credit where it’s due because the truth is that for the first few years of the sites existence I had to have Kenny’s help to get to it.  I have only recently become proficient on email and learned how to cut and paste a couple of months ago.   The learning curve for me is perpetually steep but more than that, I feel threatened by the whole thing and generally disinterested.  I still write the bulk of my letters by hand; I still go to the bank; I still buy books and newspapers; I still make cds.   I have recently begun attending an Episcopal church and my friend Deb commented that the Anglican worship was made for a tactile person like me.  I love making the sign of the cross, I love going to the alter and receiving the host, I love to kneel.  But Rose has outdone herself again with this new site.  She created this blog spot for me, knowing, I’m sure that it might be wishful thinking on her part and I want to honor her efforts because outside of recordings and performance, she has done more to keep my career alive than anyone.

Kenny and I are half way through recording a new disc, tentatively titled Beauty In The Curve.  Most of the songs are original but my love affair with traditional gospel continues so we added a couple of those songs as well: Walk In Jerusalem and Born To Preach The Gospel.  I plan to post songs as we finish them so that anyone interested can have a listen.  I have also begun a book, a memoir.  If there is one activity I am more reticent about than trying to navigate computers, it’s writing.  It took several years and constant encouragement from others for me to start.  I immediately stalled on chapter 2 and thought, I have nothing to say, I can’t remember my life, I quit.  I had already agreed at that point to play a writers conference in exchange for participating in a workshop with Lauren Winner who is not only a wonderful writer but an equally wonderful teacher.  In response to my moans and groans about what a struggle it was to get anything on paper she helpfully replied.  “Do it or don’t.”  It was the kick in the ass I needed and a reminder that the creative life is really only essential to the creator.  I discovered this in one of my many music career deserts when I was so brokenhearted over my commercial failure that I put down my guitar and started deep cleaning and organizing drawers.  And I benefitted from that time; my house was shiny, I knew where everything was and I had some immediate gratification.  But ultimately I realized that I needed to start  writing and playing again, not because anyone was clamoring for it, not because there was a paycheck involved but because if I don’t use my gifts, they die and part of me, perhaps the Image bearing part, becomes shadowy and Martha-like.  Immediate gratification has a short shelf life, the good stuff is in the crucible; I know this. And there is something beyond serendipitous about sitting in a chair, staring at an empty legal pad and suddenly it begins to fill and the memories float to the surface with a clarity and immediacy that fill in the blank spaces.  It’s like a crossword puzzle; the first time I read the clues, I have no idea what any of the answers are but then one word comes, and another and the whole time I’m thinking, how do I know this?  I think of my subconscious as a disorganized library; I don’t know where anything is so I just have to stumble across it.  So I’m stumbling through this memoir, maybe titled “Little Black Sheep” and I’m also planning to excerpt the book here as I get further into it.  Thanks for coming to the site, thanks for reading this and thanks Rose–for everything

 

26 comments to A Little News, A Lot Of Gratitude

  • LBF

    hi Ashley,

    i know you’ve written a thoughtful, lovely post.

    but i’ll be honest.

    i couldn’t read it past the second or third sentence, and the mention of Rich Mullins.

    i love your talent, i love your voice, i love your music. i feel this way about you, and i feel this way about Rich.

    it took me back to 1995, and the ‘Brother’s Keeper’ tour which i was so honored to have been present for at a couple of the dates. it was because of Rich’s love for you and your incredible talent that i ‘discovered’ you (and carolyn arends that tour) and fell in love w/ your incredible talent too. wow. fast forward to Rich’s death…the tributes, your haunting voice on his songs…and your funny stories of what a pain in the @#$ he was on tour…the ‘LaQuinta tour’, if i remember correctly. i suppose logistics truly weren’t his strength…nor proper road personnel/techs.

    your blog post is in part ‘…a little gratitude’. how apt that this is how i feel about what your music then (and now).

    i hope you’ll consider blogging sometime about Rich. i know there’s a brand new generation out there who should be a part of his extraordinary legacy. just a thought.

    blessings to you.

  • Terry Akin

    Ditto to what the person above wrote. I discovered due to Richs Brothers Keeper tour and your Lesson of Love album. I thought it was better than any album I heard that year. Been a fan ever since. I was also priveledged to have interviewed you in Rochester NY while with Jars of Clay, for my cable access music video show. You shared some memories of Rich then as well. Hope more are included in your memoir. Thanks for sharing your talents and gifts with an appreciative audience all these years. Can’t wait to hear the new disc and buy the CD. I still love having a hard copy of my music too.

  • Keith W.

    Ashley,

    Great post. Thanks so much for sharing your heart and struggles.

    I work for a Christian publisher. I’d be interested in reading the manuscript when you have it put together. Please contact me.

    Grace be with you.

  • Lovely lovely Ashley, so glad you are committing your beautiful voice to the strange and mysterious internet… Little Black Sheep have a lot to share! Thanks, dear.

  • crystal

    the annointing on your voice is undeniable….the ministry that your music is to me is life sustaining. music is not just something i listen to, it is like medicine. “queen of soul” is incredible. i drove 2 1/2 hrs from alliance, ohio to see you near pittsburgh last year when you sang a couple songs in that small church…iam so thankful for your obedience to the Lord in what you do. it truly is making a huge difference. praying God’s best for you….

  • So if I had been ‘clamouring’ more you would have given me another new album?? I am clamouring!!! Ha Ha Very excited for the new album!! I love to hear the old gospel songs redone so I appreciate their inclusion sung only as Ashley can sing them. And I mustn’t forget how much I enjoy Kenny’s guitar work.

  • Kirk

    I, too, fondly remember the Brother’s Keeper Tour, though the discovery for me was Rich Mullins, to whom I hadn’t paid much attention before. I went to hear you, Ashley, and was thrilled to meet you there (Roanoke) for the first time. Since then I’ve connected with you several times at shows, notably for breakfast in Bridgewater VA, and have always appreciated your openness and interest. I keep hoping you’ll make it back this way again.

    Ashley, I am so glad you’ve persisted in your public career, despite your perceived (and inexplicable, to my mind) “commercial failure”. The beauty, truth, and passion of your music and your words are an inspiration to me. This blog is no exception, and I look forward to seeing more posts from you almost as much as that new album. 🙂

    Even more, I’m excited about your memoir. Thank you for your courage in starting to write it and in telling us about it. I know something of the trepidation involved in making your dreams and goals publicly accountable, even to a supportive community. May you be as blessed in the writing as I expect to be in the reading.

    And Rose, thank you so much for your years of faithfulness.

  • Renee Z

    Hey Ashley, how wonderful to read your words and be reminded of why I love your music. As others have shared I too first heard you on tour with Rich Mullins & Carolyn Arends, at the old but renovated Ritz Theater in Elizabeth, NJ. You told the story about your song “Henry Doesn’t Care” prior to bringing “Henry” out on stage! That was so great. The entire concert was such a wonderful, worshipful experience, I wish someone had taped it. My friend & I became fans from that day forward & have continued to enjoy listening to your CD’s & seeing you whenever the opportunity arose. I was lucky enough to be on the KT & Friends Cruise a few years ago when you did a concert, let worship & sang with Kathy Troccoli & Sandi Patty, what a great week that was. Thank you for sharing your music & your heart, there is no one to compare you with, you have a unique style that expresses your experience & walk with the Lord. I look forward to reading your book & listening to your inspiring music. God bless you & come up to the NY/NJ area again soon!!

  • Ron Barry

    Ashley,
    My love of your music is only matched by my incompetence on the computer (it’s still a glorified typewriter to me!). However, any way I get to access a part of your soul and brain — and with you, in my book, they’re equally impressive — I will stumble through the technological process. Any frustration over a lack of “commercial success” should be immediately replaced with the knowledge that you have positively touched many lives — AND, that 99% of recorded music in the last 20 years has been absolute dung, especially in the “Christian music industry.” (I hate the use of those words together!) YOUR music, however — and that of Rich Mullins, Randy Stonehill, and occasional scattered epiphanies by a few others — has always been of eternal quality. May this new site bring you new followers, readers, and listeners — but continue to be covered by the same old grace of God that has brought us all this far together.

  • James Lloyd

    Dear Ashley,
    I too say “hats off to Rose” because anyone who helps you keep in touch with those who love you has an admirer in me. I loved reading your blog. You know one of my favorite things about you? As my mother used to say about me — and not in the most positive way — “It’s not what you say, it’s your tone of voice.” But with you, the words are all positive. When I read your words, I hear you speaking them, and I always have to smile. You have a very lyrical speaking cadence, and some of Dedra’s and my favorite Nashville or Dayton musical memories are of talking with you and hearing the wry, self-deprecating toss-away comments that shine a light into some inner corner that makes me want further opportunities to talk with you. In the meantime, keep writing, keep singing and keep the faith. I love the honor of being your brother in Christ. Bless you!

  • Hey, Ashley! I LOVE the new site:) And your first post is magnificent….not only am I continually blessed by your music, but now I will be blessed by your writings. Your insight into the daily walking after Jesus helps keep me grounded. I miss my community of believers in Nashville, and your words offer comfort and connection…I am grateful.

    Keep up the great work! My Gospel CD just came in…I’ll send you a copy…save me one of your new CDs when it’s done.

    Did you know I listened in by phone last Saturday night when you and Buddy and Odessa were performing at the Bluebird? I was the one who requested “Hard Times.” Hearing y’all play made me smile:)

    Be well, friend…look forward to seeing you soon….pax, Tricia

  • Kris

    Ashley- I was beyond elated when I heard you were coming to the Glen this year. Are you workshopping your memoir there?? It’s a great class. And I have been waiting for a long time for you to decide to write a memoir. It’s a horrible process, but a good one , too.

  • Sue F

    Hi Ashley

    Glad to hear about your memoir and the new CD. You’re so right about not using our gifts and the image bearing part of us becoming shadowy and Martha like. Needed to hear that right now. Hope you keep coming back to the Back to the Blues Festival in Chilliwack. It was great to see you there.

    Sue

  • Erin

    Thank you for your blog post!

  • Debra

    Ashley, I do miss you so much. I am constantly looking in the Scene, the paper version as opposed to online as the old school way goes, to see if they have you scheduled at 3rd & Lindsley so I can have that intimate sort of experience hearing you sing. I love that room when Cathy Mac is running the board and you are behind the mic. When I need a kick in the morning to get myself in line with Christ, I have a short playlist of a few of your songs that take me there. It Is Well, I Know Who I Am, and He Is…all classics by now but songs that go straight to my soul. Thank you for being true to Whose you are and for sharing with us.

  • Carryl

    Ashely,

    Two things really stuck with me after reading this post. First, I really, really, really, REALLY miss Rich Mullins a LOT (and I know I’m not the only one). Second, I don’t want what I believe is the best part of me, the part that is an image-bearer, to die. Thank you for the wake-up kick in the backside, and thank you for your willingness to be vulnerable. I have a lot of work to do on that last one.

  • Theresa

    Thanks for sharing. I like the humor that comes across – keep up the writing, you’re very good at it!

    and if you’re ever touring internationally… come to Dublin, Ireland – you’d be most welcome!:-)

  • Hi Ashley:

    I’ve been touched by your music for years, especially the hymns.

    Like you — I travel the “one day at a time” journey with addiction and alcohol. Grateful for the deliverance it’s bringing.

    Having worked as a ghostwriter on a number of books, I’d like to offer some advice on your memoir. Don’t feel that you have to write it. Some people find it easier to sketch out an outline and then sit with a tape recorder. Once the tape is done, you can have it transcribed inexpensively (I work with a lady in Tennessee who’s great with this; happy to pass along her info). Once you have it all transcribed, then it’s just an organizational and editing job. It’s like eating an elephant — one bite at a time…

    Thanks for the blessing of your music. Come up to NY/NJ sometime for a gig; pretty please!

    Pasquale

    • Hi Pasquale–
      Thanks so much for the suggestion–I am finding my way eating the elephant and have found a writing groove at last. Would love to come to NY/NJ any time. I don’t get much action up there for some reason but I’m always looking. Good to hear from you.

  • Bill Jacobsen

    Ashley, Can’t wait for your memoir because your writing is wonderful and your insight and vulnerability to share is a blessing for all of us. Looking forward to all the future holds and yes, there is beauty in the curve! I am entering into the final curve of my race (turning 60 this week)and I am poised to run the race with Christ by my side all the way to the finish line. I think this last blast for us baby-boomers will be an incredible journey and I’m glad you and Kenny are also poised to have the Lord work through you in creative and dynamic ways. Thanks Ashley for the reminder about using our gifts. We all need that kick in the butt too. Thank you Rose! You have done a incredible job over the years helping low-tech Ashley survive in a high-tech world.

  • I LOVE the new album. I’m always happy to see new music from you guys. I want to say thank you to Rose too. She is certainly the unsung hero when it comes to getting the word out about the best female artists in the Christian community. She faithfully plugs away behind the scenes making a real difference. I love who she is and what she stands for, and I’m so thankful that she’s here behind the scenes so that you can have this place in cyber-space to discover your music. I’ll love it when the book comes out too. I teach music and have over 26,000 songs on my ipod. When my students ask what I listen to when I’m not working… you are always on the short list with David Wilcox, Willie Porter, Shawn Colvin and Patty Griffin. Thank you again for the great music.

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