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Current concise reviews of the albums by adult alternative, contemporary, and crossover artists. Images of album artwork and links to both internet-based resources are always included. Click on the title to view the article.

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Ashelyn Summers - Key To My Heart - CD Front Cover
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exclusive interview and photos (2011)

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Ashelyn Summers
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image © Marissa Grigonis 2011

(23 April 2010) Ashelyn Summers is a twenty four year old singer / songwriter from Orange County, California. In the run up to the completion of her debut album, Key To My Heart (2011), she has systematically released the first eleven tracks to internet audiences worldwide making the audio available online in a broad range of formats. She has also released the tracks, several alternative mixes, karaoke versions and bonus songs through the iTunes store and her own website. With photographer and graphic artist Marissa Grigonis, she has also released cover artwork for each of the individual tracks as well. Vocally the singer has been compared favorable to Amy Lee of Evanescence.

Ashelyn's website is a tremendous source for her fans that includes audio, lyrics, credits and dozens of photos of the stunning artist. Her album will be released in May 2011. In the run up to the release, her single "Willful Amnesia" brought widespread acclaim and finished fifth in the June 2010 Female Singer/Songwriter Contest at OurStage. Ashelyn and her design team have established excellent graphic consistency across the website that flows seamlessly into the new album's artwork as well.

The Key To My Heart package includes a lovely 52-page full color booklet, a CD with all twelve tracks and a second CD with instrumental versions of them as well. The artist also plans to release a songbook with sheet music for the piano, coincident with the album's release. Ashelyn deserves significant compliments from her audience and the industry for making a bold move to include a comprehensive booklet that includes more than 24 photographs, all lyrics and track by track credits for her work. The initiative to release a songbook of piano sheet music simultaneously with the recordings is a superb initiative certain to make Key To My Heart an album that not only establishes Ashelyn as an emerging singer songwriter, but one with the chops to go the distance in a very competitive industry.

The twelve tracks on Key To My Heart deliver an album with a running time of about 50 minutes. Singing, songwriting, arrangements and production are stunning in every possible respect. The recording, mixing and mastering by Mike Troolines at Sound Asylum in Santa Ana, Californiahas been tuned to showcase the artist's voice while paying equal tribute to the range of musicians that contributed arrangements that back Asehlyn's crystalline vocals. She is supported by an excellent lineup of musicians, including two pianists: Jennifer Takahashi and Jervy Hou; a string quartet: Hiro Goto (violin), Hiro Goto (viola), Irina Chirkova (cello), and Dave Stone (bass); and a rock band: Mick Taras (guitar), Drew Allsbrook (bass guitar), and John Ferraro (percussion).

The running order of the album's tracks differs from the sequence that they appeared on Ashelyn's website since June 2010. The first half of the album builds with evermore powerful rock numbers, passes through a section of tender ballads and then adds power during the last few tracks. Key To My Heart opens with "Masquerade," Ashelyn's voice soaring initially atop a light piano melody. Enter strings and thicker arrangements that are unable to overpower the lead singer's power, even in the rousing chorus. The "Broken Man" ballad begins similarly with even deeper string arrangements and further highlights Ashelyn's vocal range. Rocking electric guitar adds further depth to the contrasting chorus.

Ashelyn's album continues to develop with the metal-edged rock number "Now Or Never" where the strong Evanescence allusions made elsewhere in the media are most likely found. And in a similar vein, Key To My Heart continues to build the album's sound in the stadium rocker "Russian Roulette," certain to be one of the artist's outstanding live tracks. Vast guitar excursions from the start as well as strong rhythm guitar work contribute to the strength of "Puppet Master." In addition to the thick rock arrangements, pay close attention to this singer's tremendous power!

Listeners will be astounded by the contrast between the sung part during instrumental gaps and the thick guitar-based arrangements during portions of "Ambiguous Mess." That the producers were able to showcase Ashelyn's voice without multitracking is a testament to the singer's power and the album's excellent mixing. There are however sparse backing harmonies that add great texture in the track.

The power in the rock tracks of the album is balanced with Ashelyn's ballads. "Angel" is performed as a break midway sung atop a piano melody and light string washes, an outstanding number serving to further highlight the virtuousity of the singer's talent. Another ballad is the starkly yet beautifully arranged "Willful Amnesia," a track that brought significant critical acclaim to Ashelyn in the run up to her album's release. Drama builds with her vocal power delivering the lyrical message atop piano and gentle strings.

Yet another one of the album's ballads, "The Prayer" is performed stunningly with the lightest arrangement of the album, sung atop piano joinwd by cello and bass. "One" continues in a similar vein, the singer's voice gliding above the piano as strings gracefully join the mix. Power continues to build when percussion is added.

The album builds towards its conclusion in the penultimate track "Sunday Morning." While the song begins evocatively sung soaring well above the lone piano, arrangements begin to build strength in the run up to and during the chorus. Backing harmonies add great texture to the track as well. The singer's newest track, "Home," concludes her debut album. Highly accessible with an especially memorable chorus, the gentle rock number features Ashelyn's stunning lead and backing vocals against a gently rocking guitar-based arrangement.

Ashelyn Summers, her accompanying musicians and her producers have created a wonderful album spanning a broad range of the singer songwriter genre touching on folk, rock, pop and country. Consequently the album is destined to have extremely broad appeal when entering the market this May. Ten tracks are available as singles at amazon.com as digital downloads. It is a stunning album.

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