Contemporary Gospel

“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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Renee Spearman – I Love Him

Renee Spearman I Love Him JDI Records (release date: September 27, 2019) By Bob Marovich The Stellar-nominated songstress Renee Spearman, formerly one-half of the contemporary gospel duo Renee Spearman and Prez, has been working on her own for quite some time. Her first new solo album in seven years, I Love Him, has a battery of producers, a choir directed by Tony Jones, strings, and brass. All but one of the album’s nine selections come from Spearman’s pen. That one, the relaxed “Having You There,” is by David Curry Jr. of the Mississippi Mass Choir. While the current single, featuring ...

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“Show Me” – Ms. Ruby

“Show Me” Ms. Ruby ARTX Records (release date: October 28, 2019) By Bob Marovich Written and sung out of heartbreak over the loss of her only son, “Show Me” gives Ruby Settles, aka Ms. Ruby, a chance to shout her troubles over. It’s a sung prayer that moves from gently supplicant (but with a touch of suppressed anger) to passionate shouting as Ms. Ruby seeks strength in the midst of her darkest hour. By the end, after she hears “His voice” giving her the direction she seeks, you get the sense that she is on her way to better days. ...

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“Standing at the Gates” – Erica Reed

“Standing at the Gates”Erica ReedErica Reed (release date: July 12, 2019)www.ericareedmusic.com By Bob Marovich Emoting like a soulful 1960s torch  singer, soprano Erica Reed beseeches the Lord in “Standing at the Gates” to let her enter the gates of glory. She pleads her case, incorporating church aphorisms along the way. She’s persevered through trials and tribulations, she’s done what she was supposed to do, she’s taught, she’s saved souls, and now she’s knocking on heaven’s door. The minimal accompaniment includes introspective riffs on electric guitar, a warmly purring organ, and cooing background vocalists who stick it out even after the ...

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Gloria Gaynor Sings Her Testimony

By Bob Marovich From time to time, such as on major holidays or when the young people’s choir was singing, young Gloria Fowles and her family accompanied their grandmother to Abyssinian Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey. At Abyssinian, they would listen to sermons from its pastor, the Reverend Raphus P. Means, and gospel music from such leading lights as Professor Alex Bradford, the Gospel Clefs’ Leon Lumpkins, and young gospel singer Kenneth Glover. Gloria also enjoyed the music of another Newark native, Sarah Vaughan. In the 1970s, Gloria Fowles, better known as Gloria Gaynor, became an internationally-successful R&B and ...

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Gloria Gaynor – Testimony

Gloria Gaynor Testimony Gaither Music Group (release date: June 7, 2019) www.gloriagaynor.com By Bob Marovich The release of Gloria Gaynor’s gospel album Testimony may have taken some by surprise, but if you know something about her life story, it makes sense. In fact, Gaynor’s signature song, “I Will Survive,” followed an almost career-ending accident that added injury to insult, given her acute financial challenges. And in many ways, the life-affirming message of “I Will Survive” helped men and women with the AIDS virus discover hope and celebrate life as they struggled with the debilitating disease. While not every pop star’s ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: December 10, 2019

“You Deserve” Angela Moss Poole 141st Lane Music (release date: May 24, 2019) www.AngelaMossPoole.com By Bob Marovich Angela Moss Poole gives her own composition, “You Deserve,” a deliciously light touch. The song moves from gentle to overflowing and back again as Angela realizes that trying to describe God ultimately leads to simply praising the indescribable. She brings to this worship song her talent and experience writing for television, film, and in other music genres. It shows in the song’s CCM delicacy, in its gospel guts, and in its pop music construction. Dr. Angela Moss Poole is a graduate of Florida ...

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Vetrea Slack Ruffin – Rain Down on Me

Vetrea Slack Ruffin Rain Down on Me Heavenly Spirit Music (release date: March 30, 2019) www.VetreaSlackRuffin.com By Bob Marovich Some people celebrate turning sixty years old by throwing a party. Others go on vacation, or buy themselves something special. Evangelist Vetrea Slack Ruffin celebrated her 60th year of life by releasing an EP. Rain Down on Me is about twenty minutes of singing by the award-winning gospel singer-songwriter from Alabama and an eight-minute lesson from the pulpit, courtesy of her pastor-husband, Dr. Paul Ruffin. The two opening song selections are modern and boisterous. “Raise Up Judah” is a conventional call-and-response ...

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