Review by Brad Walseth
Vocalist/cellist/songwriter Ashia�'s story is an unusual one to say the least. Born in Poland to a blues singer father and actor mother, the family came to the United States in 1984. While excelling at traditional cello studies, she "ran away" at age 21 to join Cirque du Soleil. Presenting her mostly original songs with just her voice and cello, she exhibits a compelling blend of classical, blues and cabaret, and while not really a jazz artist per se, Pay to be Loved is worthy of a listen for the open-minded listener.
At times sounding somewhat like P.J. Harvey, Regina Spektor, Feist, Tori Amos or other modern alternative female songwriters, Ashia is blessed with a highly trained and effective voice and exceptional skill on her cello which give her a highly original sound of her own. Alternately plucking and bowing, while singing, Ashia exudes a dark outlook that recalls Tom Waits and Edith Piaf, the artist focuses her probing lyrics on the underbelly of romance with delirious results. The bluesy "Divine Killer" opens up nicely, while the lovely "Fossil" somewhat calls Bjork to mind, while the interaction between her soaring voice and cello is stunning. The title track is maybe the most fully realized and takes the listener to pre-war Berlin or Paris. It is no surprise that she performed this very visual piece live with a circus hoop artist in the Cirque du Solieil's production of O.
Perhaps the highlight of the entire recording is her wonderful version of Jacques Brel's weeper "Ne Me Quitte Pas" (If You Leave Me), but she seems equally at home with the P.J. Harvey-ish alt-blues "Nomanmad". The quiet ender "Clean for You" again suggests Bjork, but with only a cello to provide the harmonics. The multi-talented Ashia has produced an album that, although only voice and cello, sounds like it is much more. Recommended for jazz listeners who enjoy cabaret and are open to something different, this is an intriguing listen that creates a dark and subtle eroticism that is tough to shake off long after the CD has ended.