5 Stars

Various Artists – Jesus Rocked the Jukebox

Various Artists Jesus Rocked the Jukebox Craft Records / Concord Music Group (2017) http://www.concordmusicgroup.com/albums/jesus-rocked-jukebox-small-group-black-gospel-1951-1965/ By Bob Marovich In addition to its estimable contributions to the religious, social, and political life of African Americans, the church has also been an effective music training school. Untold numbers of men and women have learned to sing or play instruments before discerning but sympathetic church communities. While some singers and musicians committed their musical talent wholly to God, others sought fame in the financially lucrative world of rock and roll and R&B. This exit caused no small amount of consternation among churchgoers who felt that ...

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Nichole Nordeman – Every Mile Mattered

Nichole Nordeman Every Mile Mattered Sparrow Records / Capitol CMG Label Group www.sparrowrecords.com By Bob Marovich Christian singer-songwriter Nichole Nordeman has a lot to say in her new album, Every Mile Mattered, and we need to hear it. In a hauntingly beautiful voice that evokes contemporary folk artists Beth Nielsen Chapman and Alice Peacock, Nordeman offers a theology stripped of fiats and thou shalts. For her, it’s simple. Jesus is everywhere, at all times, and in every moment of our lives.  For example, in “You’re Here,” Nordeman hears God saying that “the only invitation that you need, is the very ...

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Bigger Than Me – Le’Andria

Bigger Than Me Le’Andria RCA Inspiration (release date: July 21, 2017) By Bob Marovich Bigger Than Me, Le’Andria Johnson’s fifth album, is her best album since her 2011 debut, the chart-topping Music World Gospel release, The Awakening of Le’Andria Johnson. Best because the songs, for the first time since Awakening, feel right for her, melodically and lyrically. This album is direct and honest rather than focused on inspirational messages with an undercurrent of crossover aspiration. Song lyrics like “I’ve tried every shortcut” and have “gone through hell” (“Come Through”) and “I took on way too much…now I have to pay the cost” ...

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Preashea Hilliard – The Glory Experience

Preashea Hilliard The Glory Experience Daywind Records (release date: April 21, 2017) www.preasheahilliard.com By Bob Marovich “Are you ready for revival?” Preashea Hilliard asks the live recording audience at New Light Church in Houston, Texas. The crowd gives Hilliard, the daughter of New Light’s leaders Bishop I.V. and Pastor Bridget Hilliard, its assent.  But what she proposes is not an old-style tent revival, and they know it. The intention may be the same but hers is a twenty-first century version more accurately described in the album’s title as an “experience.” The Glory Experience album is, for all intents, a portable ...

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Bishop J. D. Means Sr. Presents A Tribute to Sunday Morning Gospel, Volume 1, Part 1

Bishop J. D. Means Sr. Presents A Tribute to Sunday Morning Gospel, Volume 1, Part 1 Mean Means Music Group http://bishopjdmeanssr.com/ By Bob Marovich In his introductory remarks on A Tribute to Sunday Morning Gospel, Volume 1, Part 1, Dr. R. L. White Jr. says that we have greatness all around us but we fail to recognize it. He is speaking specifically of the greatness of Bishop J. D. Means Sr., but his words also ring true about the venerable hymns and gospels of the church. In our quest for the newest and hottest, we leave some of the most ...

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Out of the Dust – (self titled)

Out of the Dust (s/t) Discovery House Music (release date: March 7, 2017) www.outofthedustmusic.com By Bob Marovich Some of the best songs are birthed out of suffering. For Out of the Dust’s Chris and Stephanie Teague, the circumstances of their separation, divorce, and remarriage, and their reliance on Jesus for healing, provided the raw material for the eleven songs on their self-titled debut LP. Despite the pain behind the Teague’s story, the album’s music buzzes with the gratitude of having made it through.  It offers pleasant pop melodies, bright production, and duet singing that evokes the informality of coffee house ...

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Stay Connected – The Choirs of Trinity United Church of Christ

The Choirs of Trinity United Church of Christ Stay Connected Unashamed Media Group (release date: February 28, 2017) Available on Amazon.com, itunes, other digital outlets. The hard copy with the 36 page color booklet will be available at the church by March 3, 2017, through its bookstore and website. By Bob Marovich Disc One of Stay Connected, the forthcoming two-disc project from Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ music and arts ministries, is alone sufficient to declare the project excellent. That it contains two discs makes it spectacular. It has been fifteen years since the South Side church has released ...

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Edna Gallmon Cooke – My Joy: Rare Recordings 1948-1966

Edna Gallmon Cooke My Joy: Rare Recordings 1948-1966 Gospel Friend (release date: February 27, 2017) www.gospelfriend.com By Bob Marovich Edna Gallmon Cooke may be one of the most underappreciated female vocalists of gospel’s Golden Age. Although her voice was small when compared to belters like Mahalia Jackson, Emily Bram-Bibby, and Ernestine Washington, what Cooke lacked in volume she made up for in finesse. She stirred church congregations by starting her performance soft and slow and building to a fiery crescendo. She knew when to shout, when to drop into a bluesy disposition, when to evangelize, and how to work with ...

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Miami Mass Choir – Live at the Adrienne Arsht Center

Miami Mass Choir Miami Mass Choir Live at the Adrienne Arsht Center MaJo Records (release date: December 9, 2016) Available from online music retail outlets By Bob Marovich Having fun while worshiping is the overall impression one gets listening to Miami Mass Choir Live at the Adrienne Arsht Center, the choir’s latest full-length release in some fifteen years. And I don’t mean frivolous fun, but a bouncy joie de vivre from enjoying the worship experience. In other words, no new age religion, no extended moments of quiet rapture, no overly complex arrangements, no whispering all over the place.  It’s about extroverted ...

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Various Artists: WOW GOSPEL 2017

Various Artists WOW GOSPEL 2017 RCA Inspiration (release date: January 27, 2017) www.rcainspiration.com By Bob Marovich In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the annual WOW GOSPEL collection was my personal tutor for learning about the gospel scene. Back in those days, I was focused exclusively on vintage gospel music, and particularly the contributions of quartets. I looked forward with great anticipation to the next WOW GOSPEL project so I could take another lesson in modern gospel. I often purchased the two-CD set the day it was released. It was through WOW GOSPEL that I first encountered Richard Smallwood’s “Total Praise,” Mary ...

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