Reviews

David Wright – Let the Organ Play

David Wright Let the Organ Play Godfather Records (release date: February 12, 2021) By Robert M. Marovich Typically, we hear Pastor David Wright leading the New York Fellowship Mass Choir. For Let the Organ Play, the choir takes a rest and Wright lights up the Hammond B3 to play an instrumental litany of church favorites. The album’s song selection includes COGIC favorites (a variation on the “Yes Lord” chant and the infrequently-recorded “This is the Church of God in Christ”), classic gospels and hymns, and contemporary pieces, such as “Oh Happy Day,” the New Jersey Mass Choir’s “Praise Him,” and ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: April 12, 2021

“Still Gon’ Trust” Joshua Rogers Mixed Bag Music Group, LLC (release date: March 19, 2021) By Robert M. Marovich Joshua Rogers sums up the sentiments of most in the first few lines of his new single, “Still Gon’ Trust:” “It’s been quite a year / A test of my faith / I’ve seen some things that took my breath away.” On the chorus, however, Rogers responds with supreme confidence in the Creator: “I’m still gon’ trust in you.” The song’s simple but effective musical accompaniment, including slight blues turns on piano and strings soaring like seagulls over the sea, affirms ...

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Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia (Lifetime)

Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia (106 minutes, dir. Kenny Leon, 2021) www.mylifetime.com By Robert M. Marovich Lifetime did not ask me to review Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia, but since a few individuals have inquired as to my thoughts on the biopic, I thought I’d post them here. First, I commend executive producer Robin Roberts, director-actor Kenny Leon, the late writer Bettina Gilois, and the rest of the team for getting gospel singer Mahalia Jackson’s story produced at last. Several attempts over more than a decade to bring Mahalia’s story to the screen have, with this exception, failed for various reasons. The ...

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“Tender and Mighty” – The Wood Drake Sessions

“Tender and Mighty” The Wood Drake Sessions feat. Tammy Bullock Independent (release date: March 11, 2021) https://thewooddrakesessions.com/ By Robert M. Marovich In lyric and melody, “Tender and Mighty” has the soul of an ancient hymn wrapped in contemporary clothing. With the support of an angelic-voiced choir, lead vocalist Tammy Bullock gives The Wood Drake Sessions’ charmingly simple second single a sunniness that complements the portrayal of God as friend to the friendless and hope for the hopeless. It delivers its message as tender and mighty as its subject suggests. Paul Ranheim and Kirk Sauers are The Wood Drake Sessions. Their ...

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Kelontae Gavin – The N.O.W. Experience

Kelontae Gavin The N.O.W. Experience RCA Inspiration / Marquis Boone Enterprises (release date: March 5, 2021) www.rcainspiration.com By Robert M. Marovich Some gospel artists you meet outside of the church environment startle you when you witness their artistic presence in the spotlight. One is Jekalyn Carr—quiet and measured in informal conversation and a marvel of evangelistic motive force when ministering in music. Another is Kelontae Gavin. A Marquis Boone client, Gavin is a humble and amiable soul, a young man who conquered dark moments with healthy doses of sunny optimism and faith. But when he enters the spirit realm, Gavin ...

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“Holy” – Mark Hubbard & The Voices feat. Pastor Don Clark

“Holy” Mark Hubbard & the Voices feat. Pastor Don Clark Independent (release date: March 15, 2021) By Robert M. Marovich Growing up in the Catholic church, we’d sing “Holy Holy Holy” with such lackluster spirit that I wasn’t sure whether we were worshiping God or putting Him to sleep. Since then, I’ve heard many arrangements from African American Protestant church ensembles that bring out the intended brightness of the nineteenth-century hymn. Arrangements like “Holy,” by Chicago’s own Mark Hubbard & the Voices, for example. Hubbard’s studied choir tucks the hymn neatly within Valencia Lacy’s original composition as Pastor Don Clark ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: April 5, 2021

“Fighter” Patreka Wortham (release date: March 5, 2021) By Robert M. Marovich “Fighter” is sufficient confirmation why North Carolina gospel singer Patreka Wortham took home top honors at the 34th Annual Stellar Awards Independent Artist Showcase in 2019. Written, she told Buzzmusic, at a point in time when she was “experiencing a big dose of ‘life,’” “Fighter” became her “pep talk” to herself. But the declarative power in her voice overwhelms the mantra-like lyrics. Patreka Wortham isn’t just singing a song of liberation, she’s proclaiming to the devil with her whole existence that messing with her comes at a significant ...

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Carrie Underwood – My Savior

Carrie Underwood My Savior Capitol Nashville (release date: March 26, 2021) www.umgnashville.com By Henry Carrigan for JGM My Savior is an album Carrie Underwood was born to make. Listening to her sing these songs carries us back to Sunday mornings in country churches where the vibrant beauty of these gospel hymns shines brightly. Underwood herself says, “This is an album I have always wanted to record. When I set out to choose these songs, I wanted to include the beautiful, familiar hymns I grew up singing in church. There are several songs I have performed in the past, like ‘Softly ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: March 30, 2021

“Saved and Sanctified” The Highway QCs feat. Spencer Taylor Jr. From Live at the 2021 Gospel Inaugural Celebration (release date: March 6, 2021) By Robert M. Marovich On the heels of his autobiography, A General Becomes a Legend, Godfather of Quartet Music Spencer Taylor Jr.  joins his fellow Highway QCs deliver an energetic old-school quartet number to a modern arrangement. The QCs are saved and sanctified, and the harmonies are smooth. The rhythm section is relentless, supporting the men with an insistent and quick quartet strut beat. The call-and-response between lead and quartet turns up the temperature during the QCs’ ...

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“Can’t Nobody Do Me Like Jesus! Photographs from the Sacred Steel Community” by Robert L. Stone (book review)

Can’t Nobody Do Me Like Jesus! Photographs from the Sacred Steel Community. By Robert L. Stone. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. 192 pp. (hardcover). Illustrations, Extended Photo Captions, Notes. ISBN 978-1-4968-3150-7. $40.00 By Robert M. Marovich With Can’t Nobody Do Me Like Jesus! Florida historian and folklorist Robert Stone presses into place the final puzzle piece of his years’ long audio-visual portrayal of the House of God and Church of the Living God steel guitar tradition. Having written Sacred Steel (University of Illinois Press, 2010), the definitive history of these Holiness churches’ distinctive music ministry, and produced, with support from ...

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