Reviews

The Best is Yet to Come – James C. Birdsong Jr.

The Best is Yet to Come: A Testimony of One Young Man’s Redemption. By James C. Birdsong Jr. T & J Publishers, 2017. 362pp. (softcover). ISBN 978-0-9994121-7-6 By Bob Marovich Too often, memoirs written by members of famous families paint a rosy portrait of their lives. Not so in James C. Birdsong Jr.’s earnest The Best is Yet to Come. He is unashamed to talk about the travails he and his family have endured. Indeed, he hopes his tale will help inspire others struggling under similar circumstances. James comes from the Birdsong family that has provided the world such luminaries ...

Read More »

“Just One Plague” – Esther Igbekele JP

“Just One Plague” Esther Igbekele JP By Bob Marovich To my knowledge, Nigerian gospel singer Esther Igbekele is the first music minister to release a song about COVID-19. Set to a buoyant West African rhythm, “Just One Plague” is a folk ballad that chronicles the impact Coronavirus has had on the world. Schools are closed. Businesses are closed. Sports are postponed. Economies are stalled. Governments are humbled. People need to stay a meter apart. Most astonishingly, she points out, the virus has also forced calm in the midst of international violence and political unrest. Ultimately, however, Igbekele commands the virus ...

Read More »

JGM Pick of the Week: March 23, 2020

“Out of This” Jason Williams Paper City Records (release date: March 20, 2020) By Bob Marovich “Out of This” has one of the smoothest, mellowest grooves I’ve heard in gospel this year. Despite the contemporary setting led by acoustic guitar, the lyrics cut right to the soul like an old church gospel song. “Maybe someone who cared for left you out in the rain,” Jason Williams sings in a baritone straight out of quiet storm programming. “Someone you sent up some prayers for caused you so much pain.” Williams encourages listeners that notwithstanding the personal anguish, “a blessing is coming ...

Read More »

“Good God” – Benita Jones

“Good God” Benita Jones Tyscot / Integrity (release date: March 6, 2020) By Bob Marovich As Benita Washington, the P&W singer from Selma, Alabama, captured national attention in 2003 after winning the “Gospel Dream” talent search competition in its inaugural season. Her subsequent albums included Hold On (Light/Intersound, 2004), Renaissance: Live in Nashville (ReddApple Seed Ent., 2007), and The Word Remains (Shanachie, 2020). Now, as Benita Jones, she delivers “Good God,” the first single from her forthcoming album. Her full-throttle rendition, backed by a band of musicians pounding out an uncompromising march tempo, turns an unassuming call-and-response worship piece into ...

Read More »

JGM Pick of the Week: March 16, 2020

“Never Forget” Atlanta Chapter of the GMWA Mass Choir Aspire International Music Group (release date: February 22, 2020) www.atlantagmwamasschoir.org By Bob Marovich The choir representing the Atlanta Chapter of the Gospel Music Workshop of America (GMWA) gives the classic Soul Stirrers hit from 1954, “Jesus I’ll Never Forget,” a distinctive choir-tet arrangement. Joining the mass choir on lead vocals is GMWA stalwart Bishop Richard “Mr. Clean” White. White, squalling vocalist Evangelist Saundra Cepeda, and the choir take the listener back to what church used to sound like—but with a twist, courtesy of jazzy chords and chord changes in the bridge. ...

Read More »

Isaac Carree – No Risk No Reward

Isaac Carree No Risk No Reward Shanachie Entertainment Group (release date: March 20, 2020) www.shanachie.com By Bob Marovich Isaac Carree has bestowed upon his first solo album in seven years a very accurate title. And in so doing, he has scored his best solo recording to date. No Risk No Reward finds Carree, former member of the genre-bending Men of Standard, pushing the boundaries of what constitutes a gospel album. In fact, the CD is two albums in one. The first part comprises an extended quiet storm expression of love to Carree’s earthly love, wife Dietra. As with Kim Burrell’s ...

Read More »

We Are Heirs – Awaken Me (EP)

We Are Heirs Awaken Me (EP) (release date: January 22, 2020) https://weareheirsmusic.com/ By Bob Marovich Not to be confused with the Irish group We Are Messengers, We Are Heirs is comprised of American songwriter Eric Defend and vocalist Ben Bylsma. Nevertheless, the two Christian pop groups share a musical foundation of dramatic rock with electro-symphonic overtones. We Are Heirs demonstrates its Coldplay-meets-Hillsong United vibe on an earnest three-track EP titled Awaken Me. Featuring a liquidy electronic backdrop fronted by a persistent piano riff, the title track is a melodic prayer of thanksgiving for being rescued from a metaphoric sleep and ...

Read More »

JGM Pick of the Week: March 9, 2020

“Keep Holding On” Denita Gibbs Intersound / distributed by IndieBlu Music (release date: October 19, 2018) www.denitagibbs.com By Bob Marovich Denita Gibbs of Birmingham, Alabama, entered the national consciousness in 2013 with her five-star sophomore release, Without You. She’s back with “Keep Holding On,” a finger-popping single distinguished by a husky chromatic riff on electric guitar. In a confident, convincing, pop-inflected voice, Gibbs instructs that God will see you through the dark times. Though the single is more than a year old, Gibbs still promotes it in her appearances. A member of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Inc., a ...

Read More »

“Unbelief” – Stephen King

“Unbelief” Stephen King From the CD No Secrets (release date: April 28, 2018) By Bob Marovich Not the best-selling author of horror and suspense novels, this Stephen King is a Christian rap artist from Battle Creek, Michigan, who now calls New Orleans home. “Unbelief” is from King’s debut album, 2018’s No Secrets. It’s an anguished prayer for divine assistance during a time of supreme doubt. By the end, he turns the moral of faith into a message of hope for those still trapped in anguish. If you listen hard, you will hear a recurring sample from B. B. King’s classic ...

Read More »

JGM Pick of the Week: March 2, 2020

“Patiently Praising” Fred Jerkins feat. Lowell Pye From Fred Jerkins Presents: A Project of Healing DarkChild Gospel (album release date: September 28, 2018) By Bob Marovich Men of Standard founder Lowell Pye injects the smooth soulful vocal style of his former group in the current single, “Patiently Praising.” Turning to the wisdom of Psalm 34 after receiving unsettling news, Pye commits to being patient, keeping the faith, praising the Lord, and offering thanksgiving for each new day. And as many survivors know, an optimistic attitude can indeed help the healing process. “Patiently Praising” comes from Fred Jerkins’s multi-artist A Project ...

Read More »