CDs

Various Artists – God’s Got a Blessing (JDI Records 20th Anniversary)

Various Artists God’s Got a Blessing JDI Records (release date: May 18, 2018) By Bob Marovich In 1998, with $7 in his bank account and a load of student loan debt, James Roberson stepped out on faith and started JDI Records (as in Just Do It). He celebrates the company’s 20th anniversary this year with a greatest hits package called God’s Got a Blessing. JDI has been mining its catalog seven ways to Sunday recently, having released The Essential Beverly Crawford Vol. 2 and JDI Classics – Music for All Occasions. God’s Got a Blessing is the best of the three because despite a ...

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Brenda Jefferson – Invocation

Brenda Jefferson Invocation Scripture Music Group (release date: April 7, 2017) Available on Amazon.com By Bob Marovich Brenda Jefferson is a songwriter who can sing. On her 2007 album, A Time of Refreshing, Jefferson held her own on duets with such leading lights as Lisa Page Brooks and Joe Ligon. On Invocation, however, Jefferson prefers to focus on writing the songs and offering spoken word introductions and inspirational interludes. She leaves the singing of her songs to such an impressive passel of featured artists that the album could easily have been titled Brenda Jefferson and Friends. The album’s high point comes ...

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Phil Cook – People Are My Drug

Phil Cook People Are My Drug Psychic Hotline / Thirty Tigers (release date: June 1, 2018) www.philcookmusic.com By Bob Marovich Rootsy gospel vibes abound on Phil Cook’s second solo album, People Are My Drug. A native of from Wisconsin now living in Durham, North Carolina, Cook counts among his inspirations such classic gospel artists as the Staple Singers, the Sensational Nightingales, Margaret Allison, Shirley Caesar, and Brother Joe May. It’s evident, too, in the album’s sound, its lyrics, and even in the quartet-like vamp on two tracks (“Steampowered Blues” and “Every Mother’s Son”). “Tide of Life,” which Cook and his ensemble cover, was written by ...

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Steven Chesne – Sapient: A Cantata of Peace

Steven Chesne Sapient: A Cantata of Peace Brahmasong Records (2017) http://www.chezworks.com/sapient.html By Bob Marovich The first thing to understand about television, film, and concert music composer Steven Chesne’s Sapient: A Cantata of Peace is that it cannot be defined as gospel music, or spirituals, or hymns, or anthems, or religious symphonic music. Nevertheless, it is sacred music in the broadest sense of the term. The nineteen meditative parts of the cantata are sung in several languages, with lyrics based on prayers, chants, and writings that represent a variety of faiths and cultures. In Chesne’s musical landscape, the Kikuyu sit with ...

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Koryn Hawthorne – Unstoppable

Koryn Hawthorne Unstoppable RCA Inspiration (release date: July 13, 2018) www.rcainspiration.com By Bob Marovich Hearing just the first few bluesy bars of the Jimi Hendrix-like fuzz guitar that open Koryn Hawthorne’s “Warriors,” the opening track on her full-length solo album, Unstoppable, you know you are in for a sonic adventure. Hawthorne combines the relentless vocal energy of Lady Gaga and the power praise of Cheryl Fortune with the out-of-the-box innovation of Royce Lovett. Producer Warryn Campbell, no stranger to pop-infused gospel, helps facilitate this mélange of sound, while the lyrics remain grounded in praise, worship, and inspiration. Those who watched Hawthorne rise ...

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The Sons of the Soul Revivers: Live! Rancho Nicasio

The Sons of the Soul Revivers Live! Rancho Nicasio Little Village Foundation www.littlevillagefoundation.org By Bob Marovich The Sons of the Soul Revivers are on a quest to achieve the kind of widespread visibility that the Blind Boys of Alabama and the Fairfield Four have enjoyed for the past three decades. Based on the sound of their new album, Live! Rancho Nicasio, the guys are definitely on the right track. Recorded during two sold out shows at the Rancho Nicasio, a roadhouse in Marin County, California, that specializes in presenting roots music, the album was produced by the Little Village Foundation, a ...

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Ananais Montague – Remember Me: Songs from the Cross, Vol. 1

Ananais Montague Remember Me: Songs from the Cross Vol. 1 Ananais Montague Music www.amusac.com By Bob Marovich Remember Me: Songs from the Cross, Volume 1, from the Chicago born and raised Ananais “Markey” Montague, is a two-disc, seventeen song project that appears to have two main purposes: to follow the narrative from Jesus’ entrance to Jerusalem (Palm Sunday) to his crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension; and to introduce the songs, either wholly composed or co-written by Montague, to other music ministers. What Montague provides is a collection of contemporary church choir songs–some simple, others more challenging–that combine the classical underpinning of Richard Smallwood with ...

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Keith “Wonderboy” Johnson – Keep Pushin’

Keith “Wonderboy” Johnson Keep Pushin’ Shanachie / SRT Entertainment (release date: May 4, 2018) www.shanachie.com By Bob Marovich It’s been 20 years since Keith “Wonderboy” Johnson appeared on the national gospel scene, introducing the traditional quartet sound to a new generation of listeners. He continues his crusade to blend the old school with the new on Keep Pushin’. Though billed as a solo project, Johnson has plenty of help from a battery of singers, including Prathan “Spanky” Williams, Josh Miles, Ray Braswell Jr., and Karen Clark. Together, they traverse musically diverse territory, though most of it remains grounded in tradition—none ...

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The Zion Messengers (self-titled)

The Zion Messengers (self-titled) 1500 Or Nothin Gospel (release date: 2013) By Bob Marovich Thanks to Snoop Dogg and his best-selling Bible of Love, gospel music enthusiasts outside of Los Angeles are now familiar with Charles “Uncle Chucc” Hamilton and the Zion Messengers. The quartet is featured prominently on that collection’s “Going Home.” You can hear echoes of the Zion Messengers, circa 2018, on their self-titled and self-produced debut CD released five years earlier. Their vocal strength is especially evident on the album’s drive-tempo numbers such as “After While” and “I’m Depending on You.” As the musicians play out the latter track, ...

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Bemeche’: I’m Determined – Live

Bemeche’ I’m Determined – Live BGMN Records www.Bemeche.com By Bob Marovich It’s rare these days for gospel artists to give over most of their full album to old-time songs, but that’s what Bemeche’ Hicks has done on his I’m Determined – Live. The Virginia-based music minister even invited a bonafide church wrecker to assist with his debut CD. None other than Evangelist Dorothy Norwood joins Bemeche’ on the Roberta Martin Singers theme song, “Only a Look.” It’s a treat to hear Norwood sing and squall her way through a classic that she may not have recorded before. The Storyteller then ...

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