Gospel Music

RIP: Tommy Cotton, Cotton Brothers Founder and Lead Singer

By Bob Marovich Cadillac James of the Cotton Family informed JGM that Tommy Cotton, founder and lead singer for the Cotton Brothers of Macon, Georgia, passed away February 9, 2017. Tommy Cotton was born September 24, 1937, in Marshallville, Georgia, the oldest boy in a family of 16 children. The Cottons worked share and provided field labor wherever needed. Some of the sons started an a cappella quartet group in the mid-1950s. Tommy, who was eventually named the group’s manager, was friends with fellow high school basketball team member Sylvester “Vessy” Huckaby, who served as a bodyguard for Otis Redding. ...

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RIP William Bright, Member of the Sons of the Birds

The Reverend Joe Williams and Suzette Arnold passed along the sad news that William Bright, an original member of the Sons of the Birds quartet, went from labor to reward. Arnold noted that Bright was also with the Dixie Hummingbirds, singing with them as recently as last Saturday at a sellout crowd at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia. The Sons of the Birds got their name because at one time, some of the singers were sons of members of the Dixie Hummingbirds. They recorded an album and several singles for Peacock’s Song Bird subsidiary in the 1960s. Mr. Bright is ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: January 30, 2017

“I Got Out” Bryan Popin Little Boy Wonder Music (release date: January 15, 2017) www.bryanpopin.com Dubbed “Little Boy Wonder” by Stevie Wonder, gospel artist Bryan Popin infuses”I Got Out” with a Pentecostal-flavored explosion of gratitude to God for helping him escape his personal trials.  Popin assures that God will help you out of your “going through,” also. The single is reminiscent of the traditional-meets-contemporary blend of “Alright” and “Thank You Jesus” from Popin’s 2013 album, You Can Make It. From an old-school congregational singalong opening to its evangelist-on-fire vamp, “I Got Out” rocks so hard, it burns to a crisp, ...

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Beverly Crawford – The Essential Beverly Crawford

Beverly Crawford The Essential Beverly Crawford JDI Records (release date: October 23, 2015) Available at Amazon.com By Bob Marovich The Essential Beverly Crawford is a best-of pulled from her two volume Live from Los Angeles series, released in 2008 and 2010, respectively, with a new song, “Deliverance,” tacked on top. Like Pastor Shirley Caesar, Crawford knows how to work a congregation, interspersing conversational spoken word in the midst of songs or evangelizing before and during her performances. You hear the singer swoop, squall, whoop, scream, and shout with preacher’s breath. She preaches and teaches. She does the holy dance. But she also offers ...

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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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“When Will It End?” – Dave Bass & the D.B.G.s

“When Will It End?” Dave Bass & the D.B.G.s DNB Associates, Inc. (2013) www.cdbaby.com/cd/davebass2 DC-area gospel soloist Dave Bass recorded “When Will It End?” in 2013 after the death of Trayvon Martin. Since the song’s message, “the way you look can change your fate,” rings just as true four years later, he’s putting it back front and center to call more attention to the need for justice and truth. Bass’s stinging line about Martin, “only seventeen, went for a snack / a brief encounter, never came back,” subconsciously evokes “The Ballad of Emmett Till,” a 1956 recording by Scatman Crothers’ ...

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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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Journal of Gospel Music’s Best of 2016 Lists

By Bob Marovich As is our custom for this time of year, the Journal of Gospel Music presents its “best of” lists in the category of CDs, songs, and historical releases. The recordings were not necessarily chosen as “Best of 2016” based on sales, chart status, promotion, voting, fan popularity, number of likes or retweets, committee decisions, throwing darts, reading tea leaves, arm twisting, flipping coins, or anything other than 1) JGM was serviced with the music for review and 2) JGM believes the selections best represent gospel/sacred music as an art form. The top selections in Best CDs and ...

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