by JENNY HYKES
Daily Staff Writer
Although Rich Mullins and The Ragamuffin Band, and his guests Ashley Cleveland and Carolyn Arends, who are performing tonight at C.Y. Stephens Auditorium, may be labeled "Christian" artists, Cleveland insists she is an artist.
"The most important thing to me is not to be labeled as a Christian artist or a secular artist, I'm just an artist. I've made records for big companies, like RCA, and for smaller gospel companies, like Reunion," Cleveland said.
"I'm not just a gospel artist. I'm an artist."
Cleveland believes her music is for more than just a Christian audience. "If music doesn't speak at some level to everyone, it's ineffective. It has been ghettoized at some level," Cleveland said. "I'm not just preaching to the saved. I'm trying to make good music."
Cleveland describes her music as a combination of rock and roll, rhythm and blues, and folk, "with some deep lyrics. I strive for honesty in lyrics."
Cleveland said her latest CD, Lesson of Love, is "a statement of faith, where I'm at today. Who God is and how he relates to me."
Most of the songs on Lesson of Love are traditional hymns reworked by Cleveland into her own distinctive and soulful style. "I love hymns," Cleveland said.
"There's an eloquence to the lyric of hymns that you don't hear today that is beautiful and moving to me and expresses the truth about God in a way that I seem to be unable to get at."
Cleveland will be performing with Rich Mullins' Brother's Keeper tour. A press release said Rich Mullins is one of the most successful and widely recognized artists in contemporary Christian music. His album Brother's Keeper's first single "Let Mercy Lead," has already reached the top 10 on both the adult contemporary and inspirational charts.
Carolyn Arends is also playing with Mullins and Cleveland. She is a Dove award-winning songwriter who has started her career as a recording artist with the CD I Can Hear You.
The show starts at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $11.50 and are available at the Iowa State Center Box Office and all Ticketmaster locations.