Susan Ashton is one of those artists that I met a long time ago but never developed a relationship with. Looking back, I wish I had. I know I have a couple of pictures of us together, taken at industry events, but I can’t seem to find them at the moment. Guess you’ll have to take my word for it that I’ve met her, not that she would remember, that’s how brief our few encounters were.
Susan became a fixture on contemporary Christian music radio through much of the 1990s. She got her start by singing background vocals on fellow Texan Wayne Watson’s 1987 Watercolour Ponies. That led to a record deal for Susan and a move to Nashville.
Her first project, Wakened By The Wind, was released in February 1991 and became the best-selling debut release in the history of Sparrow Records. That first project yielded songs like Down On My Knees, Ball And Chain, Benediction, No One Knows My Heart and In Amazing Graceland.
The following year saw the release of Angels Of Mercy with the singles Grand Canyon, Walk On By, Hunger And Thirst and Here In My Heart. In 1993 Susan released Susan Ashton. The eponymous project included Remember Not, Waiting For Your Love To Come Down and There Is A Line.
Susan teamed up with label-mates and fellow vocal powerhouses Margaret Becker and Christine Dente (who was half of the husband-wife duo Out Of The Grey) for the 1994 release Along The Road. The trio, billed as Ashton, Becker, Dente, nailed every song on that project (it’s still one of my favorite collaborative projects of all time), including Takin’ My Time, Along The Road and Song Of Reconciliation. That was followed by So Far…The Best Of Susan Ashton, released in 1995 with one new song, Stand.
Her final Christian project for more than a decade (though I’m not sure anyone realized it at the time) was the 1996 A Distant Call with the singles You Move Me, Blind Side and Body And Soul.
In 1999 Susan released her first, and what would ultimately be her only, country project on Capital Records, Closer. It contained the single You’re Lucky I Love You, which reached #38 on the country charts. Susan recorded another album with Capital, but it was never released (though one song, She Is, was released as a single) and Capital dropped her from the label in 2004.
She re-teamed with Christine Dente and Michele Tumes in 2005 for the project Kisses From Heaven, which was originally only going to be released in Australia. It did get released in the US, as Lost In Wonder: Voices Of Worship. The only time the three vocalists were together for that project was for the photo shoot for the CD cover. Sparrow Records released a two-CD set entitled Susan Ashton: The Ultimate Collection in 2006.
Until March of 2013 Susan was, for all practical purposes, out of the music business, working as a nanny and gone through a long healing process. She had married in 1993 and was divorced in 1999. And, according to her website, she struggled financially and was abandoned by friends. She released an EP, Thief, in March 2013.
I hope that project is the beginning of a new chapter for Susan. I’ve gone back over the past few days and listened again to those songs from the 1990s. Whether she wrote them herself or not, Susan made each one her own, and they still hold up today.