5 Stars

Damien Sneed feat. the Levites – Broken to Minister: The Deluxe Edition

Damien Sneed Featuring the Levites Broken To Minister: The Deluxe Edition LeChateau Earl Records (release date: March 3, 2015) www.lechateauearl.com By Bob Marovich Recorded live in Baltimore, Maryland, in 2013, Broken To Minister: The Deluxe Edition builds on Damien Sneed and the Levites’ previously released Broken To Minister EP. The classically- and church-trained Sneed is a member of the orchestral school of gospel music populated by artists such as Richard Smallwood, Donald Lawrence, and the late Thomas Whitfield. In this school, lush, dense vocal harmonies combine with astute songwriting and arranging to present gospel music at its most contemporary while ...

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Mississippi Mass Choir – Declaration of Dependence

Mississippi Mass Choir Declaration of Dependence Malaco Records (2014) www.malaco.com By Bob Marovich Halfway through Declaration of Dependence, the Mississippi Mass Choir’s latest album, I realized that the choir has inherited the mantle once worn by the celebrated Thompson Community Singers. Just as music ministers could not wait for the latest Tommies album to discover new songs and arrangements to teach their church choirs, Mississippi Mass Choir albums offer the same opportunity for today’s directors. Miss Mass hits such as “He’ll Carry You,” “God Made Me,” and “When I Rose This Morning” went from CD to choir lofts around the ...

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Liz Vice – There’s a Light

Liz Vice There’s A Light Deeper Well Records (2014) http://deeper-well.com/artists/liz-vice/ By Bob Marovich Liz Vice may not sound like your average gospel singer, but then again, she’s not your average gospel singer. On her CD, There’s a Light, the Portland, Oregon-based singer delivers personal inspirational messages to God and to the listener with the raw intensity of Mavis Staples and the soulful confidence of Norah Jones. The album’s ten songs are fresh and inviting, the lyrics poetic, the small band tight and suited to Vice’s voice like bacon to eggs, and the trimmed-down arrangements are like long lost tapes straight ...

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DeWayne Woods – Life Lessons

DeWayne Woods Life Lessons Soul Therapy Music Group (release date: February 3, 2015) dewaynewoods.rocks By Bob Marovich Excellent songwriting, compelling melodies, thoughtful lyrics, and powerful singing combine to make Life Lessons DeWayne Woods’s best project to date. The album is fueled by a team of top-shelf songwriters, such as PJ Morton (son of Bishop Paul S. Morton), Donald Lawrence, Gerald and Tammi Haddon, and Estee Bullock, a founding member of Hezekiah Walker and the Love Fellowship Crusade Choir. Some of Woods’s most cogent life lessons on this, his first album in four years, can be found on “They Said…” and ...

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Soul Stirrers – Joy in My Soul: The Complete SAR Recordings

Soul Stirrers Joy in My Soul: The Complete SAR Recordings ABKCO Records (release date: January 27, 2015 www.abkco.com By Bob Marovich The first ABKCO compilation of Soul Stirrers recordings on the legendary SAR Records was released more than a decade ago. With sixteen tracks, the Stirrers had the lion’s share of sides on the gospel portion of that two-CD set, but that was all; the rest of the set needed to feature other SAR artists. Gospel quartet enthusiasts as well as Soul Stirrers fans will therefore appreciate Joy In My Soul because it is all Soul Stirrers. And of the 33 selections ...

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Brian Courtney Wilson – Worth Fighting For

Brian Courtney Wilson Worth Fighting For Motown Gospel (release date: January 6, 2015) www.motowngospel.com By Bob Marovich Some singers are songwriters and some songwriters are singers. Brian Courtney Wilson is a songwriter—more appropriately a hymnist—who also sings. But make no mistake: the Stellar Award winning and Dove Award nominated Wilson is also a strong singer. One among a generation of male gospel crooners, Wilson has released a stack of quality selections ever since his breakout hit, “All I Need.” It is simply that his songwriting is doubly inspired. Produced by Motown Gospel VP and A&R man, Aaron Lindsey, and recorded ...

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Whosoever South – Come On In

Whosoever South Come On In Elevate Entertainment (released October 7, 2014) www.whosoeversouth.com By Bob Marovich Whosoever South is one of the most innovative Christian groups of the decade. The trio’s self-proclaimed “country crunk” style blends elements of rootsy Americana and country with deep groove bass, gospel, and hip hop. Think Mumford and Sons meets Arrested Development. Whosoever South is husband-and-wife team Rowdy and Sarah Eunice, and Mike Mitchell; all hail from Georgia. Vocally, Rowdy delivers the country feel, Sarah raps, and Mike sounds like Darius Rucker.  The group’s sophomore effort, Come On In, is equal parts evocation of southern country ...

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When I Reach That Heavenly Shore: Unearthly Black Gospel 1926-1936

Various Artists When I Reach That Heavenly Shore: Unearthly Black Gospel 1926-1936 Tompkins Square (released December 9, 2014) www.tompkinssquare.com By Bob Marovich Tompkins Square continues its stretch of quality black sacred music reissues with the three-CD When I Reach That Heavenly Shore: Unearthly Black Gospel 1926-1936. Using 1926 as a starting point is not a random decision. That year saw the release of debut recordings by two seminal artists: Church of God in Christ powerhouse Arizona Dranes (who has already received a handsome Tompkins Square retrospective) and Baptist minister Rev. J. M. Gates of Atlanta, who became a bestselling recording ...

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Fred Hammond – I Will Trust

Fred Hammond I Will Trust RCA Inspiration (release date: November 17, 2014) www.rcainspiration.com By Bob Marovich One thing’s for sure: listen to Fred Hammond and you can’t help but have a good time praising the Lord. His latest album, I Will Trust, is packed to the CD’s brim with bracing musicianship, creative melodies and arrangements, rich singing, and demonstrative lyrics. The opening selection, “Festival of Praise,” could easily have been an alternate title for the CD, as the entire album is a musical festival, a cornucopia of praise and worship, Fred Hammond style. Hammond shifts effortlessly from an appropriately Brazilian ...

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Various Artists – Motown Christmas

Various Artists Motown Christmas Motown Gospel (2014) www.motowngospel.com By Bob Marovich Motown Christmas is the best yuletide album I have listened to in years.  Gifted executive producer Aaron W. Lindsey (who also plays, writes, and sings on the album) seamlessly blends the old and the new with the sacred and secular to create an overall vibe that feels cozy and familiar. First off, the duet couplings are inspired. For example, Kierra Sheard (gospel) and Chrisette Michele (pop) give “Angels We Have Heard On High” a beautifully traditional reading while injecting just enough of their own vocal personalities to make it ...

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