News and notes from Fredericksburg's entertainment scene
Local Singer Takes a Shot, Gets The Blues
BY ANDREW LEAHEY
FOR THE FREE LANCE–STAR
Before you can sing the blues, you’ve gotta live ’em.
Ashleigh Chevalier learned that lesson the hard way. A classically trained singer who started performing as a toddler, she found herself dropping out of music school at 21, struck by the realization that classical music wasn’t the right fit. One year later, she went through a divorce.
“I didn’t want to sing Mozart,” she explained last week. “I still have a deep love for arias and art songs, but that wasn’t the kind of music I wanted to pursue. I went to business school instead and started writing my own songs, and I really jumped into original music when I was going though my divorce at 22.”
Chevalier funneled her heartbreak into a handful of new tunes that had more in common with Janis Joplin and Nina Simone than Henry Purcell. Having performed in theaters for years, she switched gears by booking shows at clubs, bars and other local venues. She also had a drink or two before a few of those gigs, eager to see what would happen if she loosened up and belted the music in her throaty, four-octave range.
Alcohol had been a big no-no in the classical world, where beer can add an unwanted rasp to a person’s voice. This wasn’t classical music, though.
Released this week, “From the Soles” marks Chevalier’s debut as a rootsy, soulful blues singer. It’s an all-star album, featuring everyone from Jon Carroll (Spotsy resident and former member of the Starland Vocal Band) to saxophone legend Ron Holloway. Bruce Middle, Claude Arthur and Toby Fairchild round out the lineup.
On a record filled with brassy horn blasts and Southern rock guitar solos, though, Chevalier’s voice is still the biggest attraction.
“I learned that the most important part about communicating through music is being honest about what you’re saying,” she said. “There are only eight notes in a scale. What makes your album different from the next person’s album is actually meaning what you’re saying. There’s nothing on this album that I haven’t lived or felt.”
Chevalier and her band recorded “From the Soles” in 2 days at Bias Studio. The pace lent a rare energy to the album. Each song was cut live, and although Chevalier hung around the studio for several more days to record a few overdubs, “From the Soles” feels very much like a live record.
It’s appropriate, then, that she’s chosen to celebrate the album’s release with a show at the Kenmore Inn on Friday evening. Jon Carroll and Ron Holloway will be there, too.
Now that the album is done, Chevalier plans to book more shows like this one, eager to share the music she’s been making since she traded Italian arias for Southern blues.
“It’s all been an incredible growth process,” she said of the past three years. “From going through a divorce to finding new love to finding the kind of music I should be singing, it’s been a process of moving forward and looking for a breakthrough. I found it. And it’s all there on the album.”
What: Ashleigh Chevalier featuring Jon Carroll & Ron Holloway
Where: The Kenmore Inn, 1200 Princess Anne St., Fredericksburg
When: Friday, Nov. 2 at 7:30 p.m.
Andrew Leahey is a singer-songwriter in Nashville. He has lived the light blues.