Contemporary Gospel

Various Artists – Heal: Songs of Hope for our Nation

Various Artists Heal: Songs of Hope for our Nation Motown Gospel (release date: January 13, 2017) www.motowngospel.com By Bob Marovich Gospel music often functions as protest music. Either explicitly, as during the Black Power Movement of the late 1960s, or implicitly, with semi-coded lyrics like the spirituals before them, gospel songs fight back against an oppressive world with messages of faith and encouragement that trouble won’t last always. Heal: Songs of Hope for our Nation from Motown Gospel offers ten examples of how contemporary gospel music is poised to carry on the fight against evil and oppression in today’s uncertain political climate. The ...

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J. Bethel & Spoken For – All In

J. Bethel & Spoken For All In (independent release) www.jbs4.co By Bob Marovich All in, indeed. Frenetically rolling drums at the outset signify that the debut full-length release by Detroit gospel group J. Bethel & Spoken For is about to dazzle the listener with a proverbial kitchen sink’s worth of instrumentation and a high-energy range of musical influences, from jazz to rock to contemporary gospel and even some funk (after all, Jason “J” Bethel Sr.’s uncle worked with Parliament Funkadelic). The album leans heavy on the church truism that praise is the answer, especially during personal trials, as articulated on “I ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: January 9, 2017

“Whoa” Bryan Andrew Wilson Bryan’s Songs/CE Music Bryan Andrew Wilson opens 2017 with a well-crafted single whose message of encouragement is a life saver in the midst of a swirling rapid. “I see past my now / I know it will get better,” he sings, and as the music and voices build, so does the buoyancy of the message. Nevertheless, the musicians keep the drama at bay, rolling at an easy clip to let the lyrics do the heavy lifting. “Whoa” is a fine follow up to “Overflow” and much closer to “Turning Away” in appeal. Check out Bryan’s crystalline ...

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“Holy” – Donnell Russell

“Holy” Donnell Russell From the forthcoming EP Life’s Anthem www.donnellrussell.com An independent artist from New Orleans, Donnell “D’Russ” Russell has stepped out on his own after a decade of working with choirs, groups, and other artists, most notably with Billy Rivers and the Angelic Voices of Faith. Russell’s second solo single, “Holy,” is a mid-tempo Rhythm & Praise anthem on which he and his background vocalists get into call-and-response mode to lavish praises on the Savior. A few bars of the classic hymn, “Holy Holy Holy,” appear toward the end. Confident singing with conviction. Ideal for worship teams.

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New Jersey’s Henry Hall Declares Dominion Over New Live Project

By Bob Marovich “I want to give people a sense of empowerment that they can do whatever it is they have in their heart to do,” Henry Hall said about the purpose of his new live recording, Declaration of Dominion. Hall might well have been talking about himself.  His own life is a lesson in striving to be all one can be. Born across the Delaware River from Philadelphia in Camden, New Jersey, Hall lost his mother when he was just eleven years old. By age twelve, he and the rest of his family started attending church. Their worship home was ...

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Anthony Faulkner – Guardian Angel

Anthony Faulkner Guardian Angel 7TH Chapter Music (2016) www.afaulkner.com By Bob Marovich It’s no surprise that Angela Winbush of 1980s R&B vocal duo Rene’ and Angela makes a vocal appearance on “Closer,” a song on Anthony Faulkner’s new album, Guardian Angel. Faulkner considers her his personal guardian angel. He told the Journal of Gospel Music how he met the popular singer at his church or, rather, how she met him: “[Angela] didn’t know me from any of the other kids, but she walked up to me at church one day and asked me, ‘Do you like music?’ She challenged me to go ...

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Karlos Nichols – Live in Memphis: Hope! with The Covenant

Karlos Nichols Live in Memphis: Hope! With The Covenant The Kane Group (release date: August 16, 2016) Available from Amazon.com By Bob Marovich Live in Memphis: Hope! is the debut album by Karlos Nichols, a Memphian who received his music education in New York City and came home to impact his community as a preacher, educator, songwriter, singer, director, musician, and clinician. Covenant is a small mixed choir that ably supports Nichols on this album of mostly original songs (all but one was written or co-written by Nichols). One Covenant member in particular, Britne’ Brown-Lauderdale, is a classic squaller. Her work ...

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“You Were There” – Henry Hall and New Dimension Worshippers

“You Were There” Henry Hall and New Dimension Worshippers Rebel Hill Music “You Were There,” a graceful ode of gratitude to God for His constancy, is a slow burning single by Henry Hall and New Dimension Worshippers.  The choral harmonies are reminiscent of the Hawkins Family, Thomas Whitfield, John P. Kee, and other 1970s/1980s gospel ensembles. Hall’s high tenor expresses both humble gratefulness and vulnerability as he sings about how the Savior “Dried my tear-stained eyes / Held me when I cried.” Henry Hall scored a Newsome Award and a Stellar Award nomination nearly a decade ago for his vocal ...

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Summer – Love Letters

Summer Love Letters Rich Life Records (2016) www.summerofficialpage.com By Bob Marovich “I’m in love with Jesus / The greatest love I’ve known; For even when I’ve left you / You claimed me as your own.” Thus sings Summer Pearson, aka Summer, on “Key To My Heart,” one of eight selections on her debut solo release, Love Letters. True to its title, the album features worship songs disguised as love letters to the Lord. The letters vary from gushing and wide-eyed infatuation, as on the breezy and acoustic “The Real Thing” and “Love You Like Crazy,” to the more dramatic and ...

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“Because of Who You Are” – Sounds of Imani

“Because of Who You Are” Sounds of Imani Heaven-Wings Records (release date: October 21, 2016) www.soundsofimani.com Recording as the Sounds of Imani, Gerald and Carol Ervin have released their debut single, “Because of Who You Are,” a tuneful praiser that features the husband-wife team’s fine solo and duet vocalizing. Carol’s soprano is so reminiscent of Stylistics lead singer Russell Thompkins Jr. that this song sounds decidedly Philly, although the Ervins are from Detroit. The single also has an early Hawkins Family feel in its soft R&B tones, light tempo, and breezy ensemble harmonies. This all makes sense when one considers that ...

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