Reviews

JGM Pick of the Week: August 7, 2018

“I Owe God a Praise” Jimmy Hicks & ACOJ From the Blacksmoke Music Worldwide album Waterway (release date: August 4, 2017) By Bob Marovich What I like about Jimmy Hicks is how he can transform a church song into what sounds like a big number from a gospel musical. Hicks and his Voices of Integrity did that with 2006’s “Born Blessed” and “This Kind By Fasting and Prayer.” He has done it again with “I Owe God a Praise,” an effervescent hand-clapper featuring call-and-response with the Apostolic Church of Jesus (ACOJ) Choir and Hicks’s favorite singing duet partner, Diana Hicks. The ...

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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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“Weather the Storm” – Dorothy Norwood

“Weather the Storm” Dorothy Norwood Dorothy Norwood Music Group (release date: June 4, 2018) https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/dorothynorwood5 By Bob Marovich Evangelist Dorothy Norwood goes into classic storyteller mode as she describes how a Houston, Texas, family is rescued from the roof of their home during Hurricane Harvey in 2017. While the recency of the event undoubtedly touched the live audience, Norwood sees the story as more than recent history: it’s a demonstration of God’s assistance “in the nick of time,” and a chance to shout “Hallelujah” for a successful ending. She peppers the song with lyric snippets about miracles, rejoicing, and joy coming in the ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: July 30, 2018

“Give It All to Him” The Oladipo Sisters From The Rebirth (release date: June 10, 2018) www.oladiposisters.com By Bob Marovich Boston’s Oladipo Sisters—nineteen-year-old Oladunni and seventeen-year-old Olayeni-make a joyful noise on “Give It All to Him.” Though born in Massachusetts, the sisters’ combination British and Nigerian heritage is on display in the song’s simple melody and harmonies, and its lyrics of praise and worship. Their American experience comes through their gospel vocal techniques, including some delightfully improvised soprano notes at the end. The song is on the sisters’ sophomore project, The Rebirth, which follows their 2011 debut The Mighty One and a couple ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: July 23, 2018

“Even Louder” Steven Malcolm feat. Leeland From the IVAV (Word Entertainment) EP The Second City, Pt. 2 (release date: June 8, 2018) www.StevenMalcolm.com By Bob Marovich “Even Louder,” written by Steven Malcolm and Leeland Mooring, blends musical understatement with Malcolm’s declarative rap about the many wonders of salvation. Its lullaby-like melody, incessant beat, atmospheric swirl of background voices (courtesy of Christian worship band Leeland), and string-laden interlude combine to create a captivating conclusion to Malcolm’s second in a four-part EP series called The Second City. From Grand Rapids, Michigan, Steven Malcolm is part Jamaican and celebrates his roots on the EP ...

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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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JGM Pick of the Week: July 16, 2018

“Holy Ghost” Frozene Lott Hayes LotHay Music (2018) Available on iTunes By Bob Marovich You can be certain that a song titled “Holy Ghost” is going to be a church burner, and Frozene Hayes delivers on this promise. Supported by a chugging band and a choir of BGVs, Hayes sings about the exhilaration of salvation like a veteran church soloist. She has that deliciously raspy alto voice that can make “Happy Birthday to You” sound sanctified. She sang a live version of “Holy Ghost” at last month’s Rhythm of Gospel Awards, where it was named Traditional Song of the Year. It brought ...

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“The Pain is Going to End” – Bonita Burney Simmons

“The Pain is Going to End” Bonita Burney Simmons Bursimslow (release date: January 1, 2018) www.bonitaburneysimmons.com By Bob Marovich On her newest single, “The Pain is Going to End,” Bonita Burney Simmons reminds the listener that joy cometh in the morning, no matter how dark everything may look and feel. The song moves from general encouragement to personal testimony when she sings, “it’s just a test to what I believe – it will get better,” and later drops that new church axiom, “I don’t look like what I’ve been through.” The five-and-a-half minute track cries out for a radio edit to ...

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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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