Contemporary Gospel

“Holy is the Lord” – Lorraine Stancil

“Holy is the Lord” Lorraine Stancil From the EP Awesome God Anointed Sounds Records www.cdbaby.com/cd/lorrainestancil1 Although Lorraine Stancil has earned a reputation as a fiery gospel singer, as on “Something About that Name” and “Awesome God,” she can deliver anthems with dignity and fullness of tone. “Holy is the Lord” is a good example of her more deliberate side. On this live selection from her Awesome God EP, Stancil hits high notes over the stave like a veteran church singer. Lorraine Stancil is a veteran gospel singer, having worked with Hezekiah Walker and the Love Crusade Choir, Youthful Praise, and ...

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Jonathan McReynolds – Life Music: Stage Two

Jonathan McReynolds Life Music: Stage Two eOne/Tehillah Music Group (release date: September 18, 2015) www.jonathanmcreynolds.com By Bob Marovich Life Music: Stage Two couldn’t be a better showcase for Jonathan McReynolds. The follow-up album to the 26-year-old singer-songwriter-musician’s 2012 debut, Life Music, Stage Two is the musical manifestation of his honest and spiritually grounded approach to dealing with the vicissitudes of daily life. The Chicago-born McReynolds is one of the few gospel solo artists who plays acoustic guitar. His mellow blend of acoustic neo-soul with churchy conviction may be somewhat novel today, but it mirrors the intimacy of his lyrics, which feel like ...

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“I Survived It” – Joseph Robinson & the Chosen Aggregation feat. Joshua Rogers

“I Survived It” Joseph Robinson & the Chosen Aggregation feat. Joshua Rogers AMA Productions (release date; September 22, 2015) www.thechosenaggregation.com Sunday Best Season Five champion Joshua Rogers guest solos on “I Survived It,” a neo-traditional choir piece with a rocking chair 12/8 tempo and Joseph Robinson & the Chosen Aggregation contributing thunderous harmonies. Employing a battery of gospel blue notes, Rogers and the choir gratefully acknowledge a journey filled with disappointments, heartaches, trials and tribulations, and the supreme satisfaction of overcoming it all with God’s help. The choir started out in Atlanta in 1993 as Dirk Chaney & the Chosen Aggregation. ...

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“Scream” – Ernest Billups & Tribe of Levi

“Scream” Ernest Billups & Tribe of Levi From the E’Mazin Entertainment EP It Was You (2014) Available at online music stores “Scream,” from Ernest Billups & Tribe of Levi’s EP It Was You, pulls a play from Kirk Franklin’s book of modern arrangements. Like Franklin’s “Smile,” a piano plinks out quarter notes to accompany a perky melody sung antiphonally between Billups and his ensemble. Declaring that “it’s okay to be stressed but don’t give up,” Billups put a more realistic spin on the adage of “don’t worry, be happy.” In other words, when life hands you sour lemons, go ahead and ...

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“I Tried Him For Myself” – Ellen Hayes & Harmonee

“I Tried Him For Myself” Ellen Hayes & Harmonee True Inspiration Music Group (2015) www.meetellenhayes.com A breezy but insistent mid-tempo rhythm propels this soulful selection from Detroit family group Ellen Hayes & Harmonee. On “I Tried Him For Myself,” mother (Ellen) and daughters (Harmonee) offer their testimony of God’s greatness, based on experience. He made a way, he opened doors, he opened eyes. They “know too much about Him” to disbelieve. What’s especially notable about this single is Harmonee—LaToya Bellafant, Cynthia Gross and Carmen Hayes—whose background vocals are stunning. Maybe part of it is the mixing of Grammy Award-winner Eric ...

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Gerald “Da Gospel Truth” Jones Presents The Independent Spirit, Vol. 1

Various Artists Gerald “Da Gospel Truth” Jones Presents The Independent Spirit, Volume 1 (release date: September 4, 2015) www.ispiritmusic.com By Bob Marovich Industry insiders will tell you that some of the best gospel music is not being heard on mainstream gospel radio. It’s being produced by independent, or indie, artists. That should not surprise anyone. It is the case with most music genres. It has been that way for decades. Artists typically do their finest work during their “hungry” or “salad” days. And every artist was once an independent. James Cleveland. Kirk Franklin. Mahalia Jackson. The Caravans. The father of ...

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The Gospel Music of Jonathan McReynolds: “Different Sound, Same Heart”

By Bob Marovich “I always did love music,” Jonathan McReynolds told the Journal of Gospel Music, “but I don’t think I ever envisioned a music career to come out of it.” Nevertheless, McReynolds, a rising star on the gospel music circuit, is poised to release his sophomore album, Life Music: Stage Two (eOne, Tehillah Music Group), on September 18, 2015. Raised on Chicago’s South Side, McReynolds attended the New Original Church of God in Christ on East 78th Street, where Thomas Jackson Jr. is Pastor. Coming from a musical family, McReynolds began playing drums, keyboards, and organ around the age of five ...

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Kim Burrell – A Different Place

Kim Burrell A Different Place Shanachie / New Brand Records LLC (release date: September 4, 2015) www.shanachie.com By Bob Marovich Ask any female R&B, pop, and gospel singer below retirement age about her music influences.  One in three will include Kim Burrell in her litany of vocal idols. Indeed, the church-raised singer who never took formal voice lessons was a favorite of the late Whitney Houston, who called Burrell’s voice one of the greatest. Burrell’s vocalizing exists at the six-corner crossroads of gospel, R&B, and jazz, and it’s this amalgam that she displays on her latest album, A Different Place, released today ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: August 31, 2015

“Worthy is the Lamb” Eminence (2015) www.cdbaby.com/cd/eminence2 On its first single, “Worthy is the Lamb,” New York-based gospel ensemble Eminence demonstrates kinship with the vocally aerobic sound of the late O’Landa Draper. Sections of soothing harmony on this majestic praiser transition abruptly to passages of throaty, dramatic angularity, and then back again, in a mashup of gospel and senior choir techniques. The group will garner interest for its demonstrative attack of lyric lines alone. Written by Karl Jackson with musical production by Gary Mayes, “Worthy is the Lamb” is reminiscent of 1990s gospel choirs but is as contemporary as this moment.

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Akita Steen Smith – A Long Time Coming (EP)

Akita Steen Smith A Long Time Coming Akita Steen Smith (2014) http://altmgtmktc.com/akita-steen/ By Bob Marovich “It’s been a long time coming,” Akita Steen Smith sings on the title track of her five-cut EP. No doubt it has been a journey, but A Long Time Coming suggests that the Detroit singer is not yet at the finish line. This independently-produced project by indie vocalist Smith is contemporary gospel steeped in smooth jazz arrangements and musicianship. Less is more, as the saying goes, and it would have been good advice for this project. In more instances than fewer, too much is going on musically, especially ...

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