Contemporary Gospel

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 »

Detroit’s Karen Clark Sheard Reflects on Recording Her New Album in Chicago

By Bob Marovich In some ways, it was like attending a gospel music hall of fame event wrapped inside a live recording session. The Clark Sisters were seated in the front row. Richard Smallwood sat behind them. Rows of gospel announcers, gospel music producers, and popular singers were to their left and right. Chicago’s House of Hope was filled with expectation as Karen Clark Sheard, with Donald Lawrence and Company as the choir, began recording Destined to Win, her sixth solo album and second for her label, Karew Records. That was September 9, 2013. Since then, the album’s contemplative debut ...

Read More »

JGM Pick of the Week: July 13, 2015

“The Promise” Tiff Joy Tyscot Records/Walkway Music Group/VMan Entertainment Chicagoan Tiffany Joy McGhee, known as Tiff Joy, wrote and was featured on “Amazing,” the title track of Ricky Dillard & New G’s latest, and arguably most popular, album. “Amazing” earned her a Stellar Award for Song of the Year. We hear Tiff Joy again on “The Promise.” This smoothly-produced, radio-ready single is a declaration to remain steadfast in faith and hope, because when “God said it, that settles it.” She carries the song in her sandy alto until the vamp, when she shouts the song’s explicit and final declaration: “It ...

Read More »

AsOne – s/t

AsOne AsOne 360 MusicWorx/Capitol Christian Distribution/Universal Music Group (release date: June 23, 2015) www.AsOneOfficial.com By Bob Marovich Interracial gospel/sacred singing groups go back more than a century—from the days of Polk Miller & the Old South Quartette at the turn of the twentieth century to Homer Rodeheaver’s singing with the African American Wiseman Sextette; and from Gene Viale (of Puerto Rican heritage) in the Cleveland Singers, Elizabeth Meagher in the Exodus Singers, and the multicultural Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. The color of the skin counts less than the color of the voice, and there are rich hues in the voices and ...

Read More »

E. L. Williams – Where Sin Met the Blood

E. L. Williams Where Sin Met the Blood Tate Music Group (2015) www.tatemusicgroup.com By Bob Marovich There was a time when bass singers were compulsory for any self-respecting quartet, but today they are as rare as hen’s teeth, save for classical music and opera, where the basso profundo remains the voice of maturity and wisdom, and retro doo-wop groups. Gospel quartet was once notably gifted with such legendary bottom-supporters as George McCurn (Pilgrim Travelers), Jimmy Jones (Harmonizing Four), Dickie Freeman (Fairfield Four, Skylarks), and Thomas Spann (Brooklyn All Stars), the latter being among the last of his breed still on ...

Read More »

“Empty Me” – Javon Inman

“Empty Me” Javon Inman www.javoninman.com Set for release on July 7, “Empty Me” is the latest single from award-winning independent gospel artist Javon Inman. Performed with background vocalists, “Empty Me” is a passionate and bracing mid-tempo ballad on which Inman cries out for divine intervention because “the plans of men,” aka a person’s own agenda, does nothing but cause problems. “I’m placing my life in your hands,” he pleads. “Empty me of me.” Inman’s high note leaps are mini shouts as the song’s dynamic tension builds. Born in Ohio but now a Washington, DC, area resident, Inman came to the ...

Read More »