Author Archives: Bob Marovich

Keith “Wonderboy” Johnson – Keep Pushin’

Keith “Wonderboy” Johnson Keep Pushin’ Shanachie / SRT Entertainment (release date: May 4, 2018) www.shanachie.com By Bob Marovich It’s been 20 years since Keith “Wonderboy” Johnson appeared on the national gospel scene, introducing the traditional quartet sound to a new generation of listeners. He continues his crusade to blend the old school with the new on Keep Pushin’. Though billed as a solo project, Johnson has plenty of help from a battery of singers, including Prathan “Spanky” Williams, Josh Miles, Ray Braswell Jr., and Karen Clark. Together, they traverse musically diverse territory, though most of it remains grounded in tradition—none ...

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The Zion Messengers (self-titled)

The Zion Messengers (self-titled) 1500 Or Nothin Gospel (release date: 2013) By Bob Marovich Thanks to Snoop Dogg and his best-selling Bible of Love, gospel music enthusiasts outside of Los Angeles are now familiar with Charles “Uncle Chucc” Hamilton and the Zion Messengers. The quartet is featured prominently on that collection’s “Going Home.” You can hear echoes of the Zion Messengers, circa 2018, on their self-titled and self-produced debut CD released five years earlier. Their vocal strength is especially evident on the album’s drive-tempo numbers such as “After While” and “I’m Depending on You.” As the musicians play out the latter track, ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: June 18, 2018

“Are You Ready” Jason Champion My Block Records (release date: October 27, 2017) By Bob Marovich To a mid-tempo boogie-woogie rhythm, gospel singer Jason Champion asks the ultimate salvation question: are you ready for Jesus when He comes? He then lets loose with a couple of Sam Cooke yodels and declares he’s ready – in fact, he already has his bags packed. Now that’s ready. The song’s loose and engaging doo-wop drive is given Technicolor treatment in Derek Banks’ video, which depicts Champion dressed in retro clothes, driving a retro car, and playing a retro upright piano at an old farmhouse in ...

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Bemeche’: I’m Determined – Live

Bemeche’ I’m Determined – Live BGMN Records www.Bemeche.com By Bob Marovich It’s rare these days for gospel artists to give over most of their full album to old-time songs, but that’s what Bemeche’ Hicks has done on his I’m Determined – Live. The Virginia-based music minister even invited a bonafide church wrecker to assist with his debut CD. None other than Evangelist Dorothy Norwood joins Bemeche’ on the Roberta Martin Singers theme song, “Only a Look.” It’s a treat to hear Norwood sing and squall her way through a classic that she may not have recorded before. The Storyteller then ...

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Damon Williams on #WeAreVerity: “Everyone has a Verity Story”

By Bob Marovich RCA Inspiration and Verity Records are going all out to promote Verity’s twenty-four-year legacy, and it’s starting with the #WeAreVerity campaign. The June campaign coincides with Black Music Month. “We want to honor one of the richest and most legacy-filled catalogs in gospel music,” Damon Williams, RCA Inspiration and Verity Records VP of Marketing, told the Journal of Gospel Music. “We also want to celebrate the place and position gospel music holds in people’s lives.” Williams, who joined RCA Inspiration at the end of last year, said the celebration will not only include artists, executives, and industry personnel, ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: June 11, 2018

“If God” Casey J From the forthcoming Tyscot album The Gathering (single release date: June 25, 2018) www.tyscot.com Bob Marovich As a schoolteacher, Casey J has had to ask lots of hard questions. So it’s not surprising that on her new single, “If God,” she wonders aloud why there is still cancer, still violence, and “so much disease.” More questions than answers, certainly, but she and her background vocalists find solace in the question posed in Romans 8:31: “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Seemingly based on an old hymn melody, the song riffs on the ...

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The Wardlaw Brothers – Stand There

The Wardlaw Brothers Stand There TWB Records / New Day Christian Distributors (release date: June 1, 2018) http://www.twb5.com/ By Bob Marovich There are traditional quartets and contemporary quartets. On their new album, Stand There, the Wardlaw Brothers fall within the contemporary category while maintaining links to the traditional side. The album also demonstrates the group’s maturing style as defined by its robust harmonies and song quality. The most surprising aspect of the album, and the most gratifying, is the a cappella singing. The album begins with a snippet of TWB moaning like they are leading an old-fashioned church service. Later, we hear ...

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Firma Collective – Songs for Every Soul

Firma Collective Songs for Every Soul Firma Music Group (release date: May 4, 2018) www.firmacollective.com By Bob Marovich Songs for Every Soul introduces the public to the Firma Music Group, a new Christian label organized by Hollywood execs Joel Weldon and Tom Mgrdichian. The project, which falls somewhere in length between and EP and a full album, offers seven tracks led by Lexi Jones and Matthew Scott, young worship leaders for large churches in the Los Angeles area. The selections are characteristic of current CCM, which draws more deeply from hook-laden rock and pop than in the past. This is ...

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RIP: Clarence Fountain, Last Original Member of the Blind Boys of Alabama

By Bob Marovich Clarence Fountain, the longtime lead singer and an original member of the Grammy Award-winning Blind Boys of Alabama, passed away this morning. He was the last of the original members of the group that was organized in 1944. Six sightless pupils, including Clarence Fountain, left the Alabama Institute for the Negro Deaf and Blind in Talladega, Alabama, in 1945 to pursue a career as a professional gospel group. Initially known as the Happy Land Singers, the group was among the early quartets to incorporate hard-singing gospel techniques into their rhythmic harmonizing. The bio from the National Endowment of ...

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Bruce Parham – Your Presence

Bruce Parham Your Presence We Here Now Music Group (release date: June 15, 2018) By Bob Marovich An early impetus for Bruce Parham’s solo career came from his grandmother, who instructed her grandson in no uncertain terms to “Open up your mouth and sing!” Sing he did, before church congregations and annual gatherings at the Mt. Sinai Holy Churches of America convention. Bishop Bruce V. Parham Sr., PhD. parlayed his grandmother’s admonition into an integral part of his ministry. Your Presence, available this month, is the latest example of his beefy tenor and love for contemporary and traditional songs and ...

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