Reviews

“Still Everything” – Benita Jones

“Still Everything” Benita Jones From the album The Entreating [Live] Tyscot Music & Entertainment (2020) www.tyscot.com By Robert M. Marovich Benita Jones (formerly known as Benita Washington) digs deep down into her solar plexus for “Still Everything,” a song about the omnipresent light in life’s darkest moments. “Still Everything” is inspired by true events—Jones’s own. She channels her 2018 divorce, relocation to a new city, and experience raising two teenage children by herself into this piece, which she co-wrote with Michael Farren and Ernest Vaughn. The song’s transition from melodic CCM to gut-wrenching gospel is a testament to a songwriting ...

Read More »

“Never Shakes, Never Will” – The Wood Drake Sessions

“Never Shakes, Never Will” The Wood Drake Sessions (Independent; release date: January 19, 2021) https://thewooddrakesessions.com/ By Robert M. Marovich Taking their text from Psalm 121 (“I lift my eyes to the hills”), the Wood Drake Sessions offers a word of personal encouragement in “Never Shakes, Never Will.” The song is bathed in an acoustic, laidback Levon Helm-meets-Southern-Gospel vibe. Crisp production makes for a peaceful, easy listening experience. Paul Ranheim and Kirk Sauers, aka The Wood Drake Sessions, are friends who met initially in Nashville. Today, Paul is a minister and songwriter in Colorado, and Kirk is a worship leader in ...

Read More »

JGM Pick of the Week: February 8, 2021

“Judgement Day” Jules Schroeder Jules Schroeder Music (release date: November 17, 2020) https://julesschroedermusic.com/ On “Judgement Day,” inspirational singer-songwriter Jules Schroeder offers a poignant anthem of freedom. Evoking current times (“a world of hate”) in melody, mood, and lyric, she sings: “In the last hour when you’re standing by the gate, there will be no one left to blame for every choice that you’ve made.” Assisted by the Marcus Mosely Choir, Schroeder sounds like Neko Case when singing the declarative “live free or die” refrain. For those who peddle hate, she has but one message as they gingerly approach the pearly ...

Read More »

JGM Pick of the Week: February 1, 2021

“Alpha and Omega” Jude Philips https://www.facebook.com/jude.akamien.9 By Robert M. Marovich On his gorgeous new single, “Alpha and Omega,” Nigerian medical doctor and gospel music minister Jude Philips expresses what he declares is “the unusual greatness and supremacy of God which makes all things possible through Him.” The mystical opening strains introduce a very simple major key melody characteristic of African gospel writ large. Philips sings lyrics of praise and adoration in two languages while his background vocalists offer a silky curtain of sound and a saxophone punctuates the atmosphere. As Philips and his team illustrate, less can be more. Dr. ...

Read More »

Shyne On Me: What a Year (EP)

Shyne On Me What a Year (EP) (Release Date: November 26, 2020) https://shyneonme.bandcamp.com/ By Robert M. Marovich The year 2020 wasn’t over when DC-based Christian rapper Shyne On Me, like most sentient beings, was ready to stick a fork in it. Nor was the trouble the year wrought, as we witnessed on January 6 in the rapper’s own hometown. His EP, What a Year, encapsulates the emotional rollercoaster that was 2020 through rhymes he renders to a mix of acoustic guitar, laidback beats, and a cacophony of other voices, like friends gathered (masks on, of course) to share collective empathy. ...

Read More »

“I Made It” – Darius Paulk

I Made It”Darius PaulkAIR / Malaco Music Groupwww.malaco.com By Robert M. Marovich The intro to singer-songwriter Darius Paulk’s new single, “I Made It,” is straight out of the James Cleveland songbook. Percussive piano, check. Chirping organ, check. Gospel waltz tempo, check. The lyrics, on the other hand, offer a timeless message: surviving the trials and tribulations of life is the result of God’s goodness. But Paulk reminds the listener that it’s not always easy to keep the faith. He gets real: “The pressures of life are so hard to bear / And sometimes it seems like no one cares.” Later ...

Read More »

JGM Pick of the Week: January 25, 2021

“Thank God for What Didn’t Happen” Prez Blackmon Pearl’s Son Music (release date: January 1, 2021) By Robert M. Marovich The title alone is a testament to the times. But for God, Blackmon sings in his elastic tenor, it could have been me, it could have been worse, it could have been tragic. It’s a statement Blackmon heard his pastor, Bishop Noel Jones of the City of Refuge L.A., say many times. This past year’s worrisome mix of physical and social trials, however, really put it in focus for the singer. Blackmon sets his message of gratitude to an appropriately ...

Read More »

The Frierson Brothers – Breakthrough

The Frierson BrothersBreakthroughJ.E.F. Records (release date: November 23, 2020)www.friersonbrothers.com By Robert M. Marovich There are so many links to gospel music history on the Frierson Brothers’ Breakthrough that it would be hard for the album to not feel a little like a church revival. First, the album, produced by Derrick Lee and east coast gospel stalwart James Perry, was recorded live at Newark’s Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church under Pastor Elton T. Byrd. With his wife Louberta “Lady” Byrd, Pastor Byrd has ministered for years over records and radio. Second, Rev. Milton Biggham offered the use of his Mount Vernon Baptist ...

Read More »

JGM Pick of the Week: January 11, 2021

“Forgive Me” Toneisha Harris Connected Sound Music Group (release date: October 1, 2020) By Robert M. Marovich Toneisha Harris makes as transparent a confession of sin as one is likely to hear on “Forgive Me.” Harris’s impassioned and melismatic pleas are set to a soulful rhythm section that receives dramatic emphasis from insistent piano triplets. Her mea culpas buckle the walls of her prayer closet. The runner-up in 2020’s The Voice vocal competition on NBC, Toneisha Harris was first heard by JGM in 2007 as a featured vocalist on Bruce Parham’s single, “Call Jesus.” We called her “spectacular” then and ...

Read More »

“Get Right Church”- The Gospel Legends

“Get Right Church” The Gospel Legends From the OTH Records CD Just One Touch (release date: December 11, 2020) www.thegospellegends.com By Robert M. Marovich One day about fifteen years ago, I was at the Gospel Music Workshop of America when someone handed me an invitation to meet a group called the Gospel Legends at their booth in the exhibitors’ hall. Intrigued, I accepted the invitation, expecting to shake hands with a group of seniors from various veteran quartets. I’m sure the Gospel Legends of South Carolina smiled at the surprise on my face when I laid eyes on a group ...

Read More »