Contemporary Gospel

Reginald Torian Sr. – All Things Torian

Reginald Torian Sr. All Things Torian R.T.M. Records (2015) www.reginaldtoriansr.com By Bob Marovich As a member of the Impressions, Reginald Torian Sr. inherited a repertory that included love songs, dance tunes, and formidable classics of inspiration and cultural empowerment. His solo sampler CD, All Things Torian, replicates this same thematic mix, albeit with a far more explicit focus on the role of religious faith in one’s life than ever the Impressions presented. We learn from Aaron Cohen’s fine album notes that Torian first lent his sweet, gentle falsetto to the Enchanters vocal group before joining Fred Cash and Sam Gooden in the ...

Read More »

JGM Pick of the Week: August 10, 2015

“Grace” Yael Hilton Available on iTunes Fayetteville, North Carolina’s Yael Hilton sings the stuffing out of “Grace,” an unbridled exultation of the power of God’s abundant mercy on her life. Written by Hilton and produced by GRAMMY Award-winner Kevin Bond, “Grace” is the twenty-something’s debut solo single and possibly a glimpse at what she is putting into her forthcoming full-length album. Catch the song’s first vamp and then hold on tightly for the second vamp to hear what this young woman can do.  An amazing talent who deserves major label attention. Hilton is director and minister of music at the Fayetteville ...

Read More »

“Something Big (Live)” – Jekalyn Carr

“Something Big (Live)” Jekalyn Carr Lunjeal Music Group (released August 7, 2015) www.malaco.com Eighteen-year-old gospel singing sensation Jekalyn Carr reprises “Something Big,” her single from earlier this year, as a live performance, complete with ambient shouts from her appreciative audience. Carr is energetic and exudes the power of positive thinking in this live performance. Perhaps the single is a teaser for a forthcoming live album, the release of which would make sense, but as a live single, it would have been better to hear her sing something new.

Read More »

Mechelle Johnson – “Urgent”

“Urgent” Mechelle Johnson Al-Go-Rhythm (2015) On “Urgent,” Memphis-based gospel singer Mechelle Johnson scats, swoons, whooos, and reads lines with rhythmic staccato accents, performing with more jazz than gospel in her voice. Her well-honed performance approach supports the song’s premise, which encourages listeners to go beyond the church walls and “into the highways and hedges” to deliver souls to God. The melody of this smooth jazz arrangement contains a bluesy twist, though the lyrics are inspirational, as Johnson charges listeners to accept discipleship and “shine for Him” through good works. Have a listen yourself: “Urgent”

Read More »

Damion Murrill & Siloam – Take a Stand

Damion Murrill & Siloam Take a Stand Divinity Music Group (release date: June 9, 2015) https://www.facebook.com/damionmurrill2 By Bob Marovich On his debut solo CD, Take a Stand, Damion Murrill demonstrates effective tutelage as a protégé of Donald Lawrence as he leads his own gospel group, Siloam (pron. Sill-OAM) on a baker’s dozen of thoughtful and rousing selections. Damion Murrill & Siloam possess that room-filling extroverted vocal sound representative of today’s contemporary gospel ensembles. The musicians’ complex chords and learned changes are also emblematic of this popular style. What is distinctive about Take a Stand, however, is its lyrical emphasis on ...

Read More »

Funmilayo Ngozi – Unconstrained

Funmilayo Ngozi Unconstrained Unconstrained Music (2015) www.funmilayongozi.com By Bob Marovich A cursory look at Nigerian singer Funmilayo Ngozi’s name might suggest that her music is steeped in the African gospel tradition. In actuality, Ngozi lives in Augusta, Georgia, and studied and is a music educator in the U.S.  She served as a background vocalist on Trey McLaughlin & Sounds of Zamar’s Limitless album and the Beulah Grove Baptist Church’s Live at the Grove CD. Ngozi’s debut solo album, Unconstrained, is true to its title in more ways than one.  Although the title refers to unfettered worship and praise, the songs are ...

Read More »

Jenise La Vonne – The Call

Jenise La Vonne The Call Unusually Anointed Music Group (release date: June 5, 2015) www.lovejeniselavonne.com By Bob Marovich Apostle Lymus Johnson, a fiery preacher winding up to full whoop mode, opens New York singer Jenise La Vonne’s EP The Call.  To an overlain modern beat, Apostle Johnson poses the question that serves as the project’s theme: God is calling you to repent – will you answer Him or not? On the surface, a heaven-or-hell question may appear far too weighty to hover over the project of an emerging young talent, whose sweetness and runway model comportment would suggest a more blissful view of ...

Read More »

Karen Clark Sheard – Destined to Win

Karen Clark Sheard Destined to Win Karew Records (2015) www.karewrecords.com By Bob Marovich “Can I take some time to talk to you? / To share a message to encourage you?” Karen Clark Sheard asks in “The Who Doesn’t Matter,” the opening of her new CD, Destined to Win, and a selection featuring fellow songstress Faith Evans. Sheard’s simple request sets the thematic tone for a live album that is chock-a-block with airs of encouragement and reassurance that no matter what happens in life, God will be there to make things right. Just believe and don’t give up. Bolstered by the deft ...

Read More »

JGM Pick of the Week: July 20, 2015

“Back to Basics 2.0 – The Remix” Mel Holder feat. Gerald Alston Psalmist Music Group (2015) www.melholder.com There’s a first time for everything, and saxophonist Mel Holder’s single, “Back to Basics,” may be the first gospel song to include a slithery klezmer riff. A chugging beat doubles the tempo of the original “Back to Basics” as guest vocalist Gerald Alston of the Manhattans reflects back on the power and the glory of old school church. He implores listeners to “get back to the rudiments: prayer, praise, worship, and the Word.” Born in Queens, New York, of Panamanian descent, the Grammy- and ...

Read More »

“Healer” – Lady Renee

“Healer” Lady Renee www.LadyRenee.org To a conventional CCM melody penned by Australian artist Michael Guglielmucci, Lady Renee sings praises to the Lord with rising passion and gusto that can only come from the wellspring of personal conviction. Towards the end of the song, Lady Renee lines out a litany of issues, including depression, oppression, cancer, and AIDS, but the battle she fought was infertility, which resulted in several miscarriages. Yet and still (as the old folks would say), she and her husband finally conceived a child, which no doubt fueled her emotional outpouring on the single. Lady Renee is Chief ...

Read More »