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Susan Ashton

Closer – 1999 (Capitol)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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CDs by Susan Ashton

Listening to Susan Ashton's country debut is a lot like walking through a model home: Everything is spotlessly clean, but you sense immediately that nobody actually lives there. Producer Emory Gordy, Jr. surrounds Ashton - heretofore a Christian artist - with all of the modern recording studio conveniences, but the real Ashton somehow gets lost in the mix. On songs like the title cut, Ashton's voice aches with sincerity, but she still comes off as a scripted spokesperson, rather than a personal speaker.

Maybe this impersonal impression is due to the fact that these songs have so little in common. They range from the devoted "Closer" to the resistance of "I Ain't Gonna Fall For Love Again." Ashton is the faceless figurehead pointing out the various makes and models of songs. The saving grace is a quiet reading of David Williams' and Marvin Etzioni's "Can't Cry Hard Enough." But as the album's last cut, it's ultimately just too little, too late.

If Ashton would have had a better vision for her interior design, this house might have felt a little bit more like a home.