Contemporary Gospel

JGM Pick of the Week: March 30, 2020

“Without Condition” Ashy Akakpo Independent (release date: February 16, 2020) https://www.ashyakakpo.com By Bob Marovich From North-West London, England, indie gospel artist Ashy Akakpo tests industry waters with her debut single, “Without Condition.” Understated and focused wholly on lyrics about God’s unconditional love, “Without Condition” introduces a young woman who sounds for all the world like an emerging Christian version of Alicia Keys. Don’t think so? Check out the harmony section at the single’s end and get back with me. It’s like we are spying on a late night solo happening on a half-lit church altar. Yes, less is more.

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Greg Harris – Reaching

Greg Harris Reaching KNEntertainment / Sabbath Day Records (release date: January 5, 2020) By Bob Marovich Reaching, the new studio CD by Pastor Greg Harris of Little Rock, Arkansas, features a handful of songs of praise, inspiration, and gratitude sung in several styles by Harris and a small choir. JGM’s introduction to Pastor Harris happened in 2009 with his appearance at the Gospel Music Workshop of America and a subsequent review of his live album from the same year. Reaching demonstrates Harris’s growth as a gospel singer. The two album standouts hearken back to old-fashioned Sunday morning singing. “He’s Coming ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: March 23, 2020

“Out of This” Jason Williams Paper City Records (release date: March 20, 2020) By Bob Marovich “Out of This” has one of the smoothest, mellowest grooves I’ve heard in gospel this year. Despite the contemporary setting led by acoustic guitar, the lyrics cut right to the soul like an old church gospel song. “Maybe someone who cared for left you out in the rain,” Jason Williams sings in a baritone straight out of quiet storm programming. “Someone you sent up some prayers for caused you so much pain.” Williams encourages listeners that notwithstanding the personal anguish, “a blessing is coming ...

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Isaac Carree – No Risk No Reward

Isaac Carree No Risk No Reward Shanachie Entertainment Group (release date: March 20, 2020) www.shanachie.com By Bob Marovich Isaac Carree has bestowed upon his first solo album in seven years a very accurate title. And in so doing, he has scored his best solo recording to date. No Risk No Reward finds Carree, former member of the genre-bending Men of Standard, pushing the boundaries of what constitutes a gospel album. In fact, the CD is two albums in one. The first part comprises an extended quiet storm expression of love to Carree’s earthly love, wife Dietra. As with Kim Burrell’s ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: March 9, 2020

“Keep Holding On” Denita Gibbs Intersound / distributed by IndieBlu Music (release date: October 19, 2018) www.denitagibbs.com By Bob Marovich Denita Gibbs of Birmingham, Alabama, entered the national consciousness in 2013 with her five-star sophomore release, Without You. She’s back with “Keep Holding On,” a finger-popping single distinguished by a husky chromatic riff on electric guitar. In a confident, convincing, pop-inflected voice, Gibbs instructs that God will see you through the dark times. Though the single is more than a year old, Gibbs still promotes it in her appearances. A member of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Inc., a ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: March 2, 2020

“Patiently Praising” Fred Jerkins feat. Lowell Pye From Fred Jerkins Presents: A Project of Healing DarkChild Gospel (album release date: September 28, 2018) By Bob Marovich Men of Standard founder Lowell Pye injects the smooth soulful vocal style of his former group in the current single, “Patiently Praising.” Turning to the wisdom of Psalm 34 after receiving unsettling news, Pye commits to being patient, keeping the faith, praising the Lord, and offering thanksgiving for each new day. And as many survivors know, an optimistic attitude can indeed help the healing process. “Patiently Praising” comes from Fred Jerkins’s multi-artist A Project ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: February 24, 2020

“Big” Pastor Mike Jr. Blacksmoke Music Worldwide/Rock City Media Group (release date: May 10, 2019) By Bob Marovich In a time when Kanye West is dominating Billboard‘s Top Gospel Singles and Albums charts, whatever space is left is occupied by legacy artists like Kirk Franklin and Tamela Mann. There’s scant room for new artists. Nevertheless, Pastor Mike Jr. has broken through onto the charts with “Big” and his album Free. As sonically enormous as its subject, “Big” evokes the work of James Fortune & FIYA in its use of spoken calls to sung choral responses, outsized production, and zealous optimism. ...

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“Look to the Hills” – Rev. Luther Barnes & the Restoration Worship Center Choir

“Look to the Hills” Rev. Luther Barnes & the Restoration Worship Center Choir Shanachie / SRT Entertainment (release date: January 24, 2020) www.shanachie.com By Bob Marovich On the heels of “God’s Grace,” a remarkable hit for the Reverend Luther Barnes and the choir from his Restoration Worship Center in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, comes another heartwarming single, “Look to the Hills.” Barnes takes Psalm 121 as his text for this selection. Citing money problems as well as adding an alarming verse about a health scare that one can only hope is not autobiographical, he and the choir offer a reassuring ...

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“I Hear Rain” – Edwrin Sutton & Kingdom Culture

“I Hear Rain” Edwrin Sutton & Kingdom Culture Blacksmoke Music Worldwide (release date: May 2, 2019) “I Hear Rain” is a song of encouragement in a time of despair. Its spoken call and sung response between Sutton and Kingdom Culture evokes James Fortune and Kirk Franklin’s own use of the technique. The coming storm is nothing to fear, the ensemble sings, because the rain means greater is coming. In anticipation of the gathering clouds and the eventual downpour of blessings, the group builds the song’s tension, though it ends before the sweet release. This is a case where the longer ...

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“Been Good” – Torry Dulaney

“Been Good” Torry Dulaney Raw Camp Records (release date: May 24, 2019) By Bob Marovich If you didn’t know that gospel wunderkind Todd Dulaney has a singing brother, now you know. Serving as minster of music for the Church at Rock Creek in Little Rock, Arkansas, Torry Dulaney is a solo artist who put out a Christmas album a few years ago. Torry’s latest single, “Been Good,” represents a musical style he calls “R&G,” or rhythm and gospel. This song of adulation and gratitude to the Most High fuses the uncomplicated honesty of modern gospel quartet singing to a beat ...

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