CDs

The Abyssinian Mass – Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis Featuring Damien Sneed and Chorale Le Chateau The Abyssinian Mass Blue Engine Records (release date: March 18, 2016) www.blueenginerecords.org By Bob Marovich During the sermon section of The Abyssinian Mass, Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts III welcomes congregants with a statement that is the underlying theme of the piece: “Everybody has a place in the house of God.” Unity in diversity under one supreme deity is the binding agent of The Abyssinian Mass, written in partnership with Harlem’s historic Abyssinian Baptist Church by Pulitzer Prize-winning jazz musician, composer, and educator Wynton Marsalis. Blending ...

Read More »

Bri (Briana Babineaux) – Keys to My Heart

Bri (Briana Babineaux) Keys to My Heart Tyscot Records / Marquis Boone Enterprises (release date: March 25, 2016) www.tyscot.com By Bob Marovich You probably know Briana Babineaux (Bri), the pompadour-wearing fashionista, from her Instagram singing segments that racked up such significant interest among the hoi polloi that she garnered attention from Marquis Boone, the man who transformed Casey J from schoolteacher to Billboard charting artist. Bri’s twelve-track debut album with Boone and Tyscot, Keys to My Heart, answers the growing “Bri Nation’s” encore cry and offers further proof of the singer’s, and soon to be college graduate’s, talent. The album has a hybrid production sound ...

Read More »

Jonathan Nelson – Fearless

Jonathan Nelson Fearless Light Records/Entertainment One Music (release date: March 18, 2016) www.jonathannelson.us By Bob Marovich Who would have imagined, back in 2004 when he appeared on the national gospel music scene, that the irrepressible new-school gospel artist Tye Tribbett would someday lead an old school-style praise break? That’s exactly what he does at the conclusion of Fearless, the live recording from Stellar Award-winner Jonathan Nelson. The eight-plus minute “I Give You Glory,” with Tribbett as pastor/song leader, rides along on a praise break beat, tying Nelson’s fifth album in the splendid ribbon and bow it deserves. Recorded live at the Faith ...

Read More »

Lecrae – Church Clothes 3

Lecrae Church Clothes 3 Reach Records www.lecrae.com By Bob Marovich Leave it to Lecrae to put out a mixtape as a place holder—or an appetite whetter—until his new album is released, and it soars to the top of the Billboard chart. That demonstrates his crossover appeal in a hip hop market that knows no subgenre boundaries: if it’s good, it’s good. If it’s relevant, even better. Church Clothes 3 is good and relevant. It’s first three selections, in fact, are engaging kaleidoscopes of incisive rails against inequality and injustice in all of its forms. Lecrae points the finger at everyone ...

Read More »

Bishop Andrew Merritt & the Straight Gate Mass Choir – Saturate Us

Bishop Andrew Merritt & The Straight Gate Mass Choir Saturate Us Bajada Records (release date: December 22, 2015) www.saturateus.com By Bob Marovich The praise and worship choir, which one could argue was pioneered in the 1980s by Carol Cymbala and the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, tempers the soul-stirring sounds of the gospel choir by employing fewer vocal acrobatics and blue notes, but maintaining the latter’s thunderous fervor. This choral style is ubiquitous in gospel music these days, but Detroit’s Straight Gate Mass Choir, under the leadership of Bishop Andrew Merritt, was among the first to bring it into the urban church. Making records ...

Read More »

Virtue – Fearless

Virtue Fearless Mixed Bag/eOne New York (release date: February 26, 2016) www.virtuegirls3.com By Bob Marovich Norma Desmond declared in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard: “I hate that word [comeback]. It’s a return.” With Trin-i-tee 5:7 in suspend mode and Mary Mary doing solo projects, it’s a good time for the sister trio Virtue to return (thanks, Norma). After an extended hiatus, the Dove Award-winning and GRAMMY Award- and Stellar Award-nominated group released their seventh studio album, Fearless, on Friday. Karima Kibble, Ebony Holland, and Heather Martin augment their characteristically sunny, breezy and optimistic outlook with assertive Urban Contemporary licks, electrified harmonies, and ...

Read More »

Holly Ann – Light and Bloom

Holly Ann Light and Bloom Deeper Well Records (release date: January 13, 2016) www.deeper-well.com By Bob Marovich Last year, Liz Vice demonstrated that some of the best spiritual music doesn’t have to come from established channels of gospel and CCM talent. Portland, Oregon’s Christian alternative singer-songwriter Holly Ann Winchell (aka Holly Ann) is another pleasant discovery in this same vein.  Released last month on Deeper Well Records, her Light and Bloom is a great big introspective thank you letter to God. The album’s praise songs are atmospheric and minimal, Holly Ann’s voice beguiling and poignant. Although her publicity cites Mazzy Star as ...

Read More »

Christians Catch Hell: Gospel Roots 1976-79

Various Artists Christians Catch Hell: Gospel Roots 1976-79 Honest Jon’s Records http://honestjons.com/shop/artist/Christians_Catch_Hell By Bob Marovich Those of us who moved and grooved to 1970s hits by the likes of George McCrae and K.C. and the Sunshine Band on Henry Stone’s TK label had no idea the veteran record man had a subsidiary reserved for the sacred. He did.  It was called Gospel Roots and, thanks to Honest Jon’s Records, Christians Catch Hell is a top-quality retrospective of the label’s life and times. The title and front cover of the album reference the extended title track of the Reverend Edna Isaac and the ...

Read More »

Dynamic Abraham Brothers – Use What I Have

The Dynamic Abraham Brothers Use What I Have New Ham Records By Bob Marovich I don’t know what else the Dynamic Abraham Brothers could possibly have done to make Use What I Have a more archetypal gospel quartet album. First, the quintessential quartet drive tempo quickens the title track as well as the handclapping “God Wants to Move” and “No More Yokes.” Whereas gospel quartet albums today have one, maybe two, drive songs, Use What I Have has three. Second, the lyrics cover well-trodden quartet territory, which means country church wisdom that has been the foundation of gospel music for ...

Read More »

Jor’Dan Armstrong – Confident EP

Jor’Dan Armstrong Confident SeaQ/Good Guys (release date: January 1, 2016) www.jordanarmstrongmusic.com By Bob Marovich Almost immediately after the clock signaled the start of 2016, Jor’Dan Armstrong dropped his six-track EP, Confident, possibly making it the first gospel release of the new year. The timing is not coincidental. Armstrong has deemed this EP somewhat of a new direction for him. Indeed, while the messaging is just as positive and encouraging as his other releases, such as last year’s lively 25 Days of Summer, the music—from the opening siren strains of “All I Know” to the concluding tones of the evangelistic “So For ...

Read More »