Reviews

JGM Pick of the Week: November 23, 2016

“Excuse Me” Chrystal Rucker HBK Media (2016) Chrystal Rucker is one of the most gifted vocalists in gospel music today. Although some of her best work thus far has been on passionately rendered slow songs, “Excuse Me” gives her a chance to front a shoulder-shaking praiser. On “Excuse Me,” Rucker only hints at the reasons she shouts and lifts her hands in praise. She sings: “Wish I had the time to tell you, but you would not believe / All of the things God has done for me.” Just thinking about God’s goodness gets her all verklempt, which means more ...

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Dee Dee Sharp – Songs of Faith (reissue)

Dee Dee Sharp Songs of Faith Cameo Records / ABKCO Music and Records (originally released in 1962; reissued October 21, 2016) www.abkco.com By Bob Marovich Just before the Beatles all but changed the face of popular music, Cameo/Parkway Records was finding new ways to keep kids dancing. From Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” and the Orlons’ “The Wah Watusi” to the Dovells “Bristol Stomp” and Dee Dee Sharp’s “Mashed Potato Time,” the Philadephia label was doing what Motown was about to do: recalibrate R&B music by African American artists for a multicultural audience. Cameo producers Kal Mann and Dave Appell knew ...

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The Rance Allen Group – Live from San Francisco

The Rance Allen Group Live from San Francisco Tyscot Records (release date: October 28, 2016) www.tyscot.com By Bob Marovich “I’m loving me some of y’all,” gushed an obviously pleased Bishop Rance Allen to the audience gathered to hear the Rance Allen Group at the Second Annual Charles Reid Gospel Festival in Richmond, California, north of San Francisco. From the response of the audience, the love was mutual. The Bay Area program was recorded live by Tyscot Records and released as Live from San Francisco, the Rance Allen Group’s 25th album and third live project. They return for this live album ...

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Half Mile Home – Don’t Judge Me

Half Mile Home Don’t Judge Me Church Boy Musik / Blacksmoke Music Worldwide (release date: July 8, 2016) www.halfmilehome.com By Bob Marovich Oh, the irony in reviewing a CD called Don’t Judge Me. That’s the name of Half Mile Home’s fourth and latest full-length project, which repackages some of the Ohio trio’s earlier cuts, a couple of live performances, and six new songs that bear the group’s soul-funky “rhythm and light” brand of Christian pop music. The new songs are sandwiched in between mixes of former releases, presumably to give newly acquired fans an updated sample of retro HMH. The ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: November 14, 2016

“Rock Steady” Angela Bennett (2016) Available from digital media outlets An alumna of Houston’s Southeast Inspirational Choir, where she sang under the direction of notables Shirley Joiner, Carl Preacher, and Brenda Waters (the choir also produced Yolanda Adams), Angela Dannett Bennett offers an electrifying performance on “Rock Steady.” Bennett and her background vocalists encourage listeners to be strong and cling to the rock during the storm. She then takes the meteorology metaphor a step further: “Have you any fair weather friends? / When trouble comes, the fellowship ends?” she asks. Don’t worry, she adds: “He will never leave you alone.” ...

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Living the Life I Sing: Gospel Music from the Dorsey Era to the Millennium

Living the Life I Sing: Gospel Music from the Dorsey Era to the Millennium (First Edition) Alphonso Simpson Jr. and Thomas A. Dorsey, III, eds. Paperback; 180 pages, with illustrations (Cognella Academic Publishing) https://titles.cognella.com/living-the-life-i-sing-9781634875493.html By Bob Marovich Living the Life I Sing is a fascinating collection of essays from prominent scholars on the creation, development, and impact of African American gospel music. Although gospel’s acknowledged father, Thomas A. Dorsey, is the central figure of the book, he is not its sole concern.  The book covers a variety of facets of gospel music from its West African roots to today. A ...

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Trish Standley – No One Else

Trish Standley No One Else Jan’s Joy Ministries (2016) www.trishstandley.com By Bob Marovich The starting salvo of gospel singer and fashionista Trish Standley’s new album, No One Else, is refreshing in its simplicity. There are no anthemic trumpeting synths, no declarative shouts of “C‘mon and put your hands together,” both of which introduce too many gospel albums these days. Instead, Standley’s opener, “Again I Worship,” is a peaceful piano-dominated praiser that gives her room to exercise her girlish soprano. Reprising the airy introduction is the title track, written by Tiffanie Barnes, with its sweetly sung melody and humble plaudits to ...

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Rick Stephenson – My Everything

Rick Stephenson My Everything N-Siteful Music (release date: August 1, 2016) www.rickstephensonmusic.com By Bob Marovich Christian singer-songwriter Rick Stephenson is no stranger to the recording studio. My Everything represents his latest album in at least four full-length CDs in his career. The new album contains ten radio-sized and pleasantly rendered pieces by Stephenson, a Johnson Creek, Wisconsin-based artist whose songwriting technique suggests he is an astute student of the pop song. Indeed, as a youth, Stephenson spent a great deal of time listening to Top 40 radio, and it shows.  The self-professed “Pop Gospel Musician-ary” links lyrics of faith and gratitude ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: November 7, 2016

“Escaped to Tell” Blanche McAllister-Dykes From the Escaped To Tell Movie Soundtrack www.escapedtotell.com Sung by Blanche McAllister-Dykes, whose vocal vulnerability gives the song the feel of a church testimony, “Escaped to Tell” is the title track of a Christian-themed film by songwriter and author, Nefateri Smalls, who co-wrote the song with Chad Chambers. An alumna of Donald Lawrence & the Tri-City Singers, McAllister-Dykes builds from victim to victorious to advocate through a steadily building passion that is echoed by her background vocalists. By the conclusion, she is shouting praises to God for bringing her through the emotional pain of domestic violence ...

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Faithful Connection – Thank You

Faithful Connection Thank You (2015) www.faithfulconnection09.com By Bob Marovich Named Quartet CD of the Year at the 2016 Rhythm of Gospel Awards, Thank You is a ten-track album by Faithful Connection that blends traditional gospel quartet singing with modern musicianship. The Fredericksburg, Virginia, group pays homage to Tidewater quartet history through its tight harmonies that emphasize the mid-range versus high tenor or bass. The quartet’s harmonies are especially prominent on the title track and on “Come Too Far,” which opens with the classic open guitar strum and features a warbling organ as well as hard singing from guest lead James H. ...

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