Reviews

Apostle James Alston & Fellowship – The Movement

Apostle James Alston & Fellowship The Movement Independent (release date: August 10, 2013) By Bob Marovich Wooden church songs about faith, hope, and gratitude are at the heart of The Movement, the debut release by Portsmouth, Virginia’s Apostle James Alston & Fellowship. Although the name of the group suggests a male-led small choir, Apostle James Alston & Fellowship sounds to my ears like a mixed voice quartet. Shanita Bell is the lone female voice in the otherwise male group, with Apostle Alston delivering the meaty lead vocals that evoke the southern soul quartet tradition. How the group handles its two ...

Read More »

“Changed Me” – Vonnie Blackshear

“Changed Me” Vonnie Blackshear (release date: August 10, 2018) Available on iTunes By Bob Marovich Dramatic vocalist Vonnie Blackshear of Mount Rainier, Maryland, out-sings the swirl of synthesizers on this declaration of appreciation for being transformed and made stronger by God’s love. While the musicianship gives the song a quiet storm vibe, and in a way, it works because Blackshear’s soaring high notes cry out for equal amounts of musical muscle, I suspect the song would be just as intense, if not more so, were Blackshear backed by just piano, organ, and drums. I’d love to hear a remix version!

Read More »

JGM Pick of the Week: September 4, 2018

“He’s Never Failed Me Yet” Saint Mark Sanctuary Choir From The Saint Mark Experience Live (2018) https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/saintmarksanctuarychoir By Bob Marovich From the opening strains of “He’s Never Failed Me Yet,” the Sanctuary Choir of Saint Mark Baptist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, is unrelenting in its praise of an unfailing God. Backed by deliciously thick harmonies from the open-throated choir, the lead singer declares that “Momma may fail / Daddy may fail / Sister may fail / Brother may fail / Friend may fail / Pastor may fail,” but God won’t fail. Under the leadership of Darius Nelson, the choir dedicated its album ...

Read More »

Cameron Ross – Power: Instrumental Praise & Worship

Cameron Ross Power: Instrumental Praise & Worship Cameron Ross Music (release date: April 19, 2018) www.cameronrossmusic.com By Bob Marovich Jazz saxophonist Cameron Ross’s sophomore album Power lives up to its subtitle. Ross renders contemporary Praise & Worship favorites in the smooth jazz format and then commences to improvise on their melodies on saxophone. Songs such as Israel Houghton’s “You Are Good,” Martha Munizzi’s “Glorious,” and William Murphy’s “You Reign” get this restful but restless treatment. Without lyric context, however, songs such as “Jump” and the title track are virtually indistinguishable from non-sacred jazz instrumentals. A music educator in the Memphis school system, Ross grew ...

Read More »

Dave Bass & the DBGs – All Over the Place

Dave Bass & the DBGs All Over the Place DNB Associates (release date: June 15, 2018) www.davebassgospel.com By Bob Marovich Although Dave Bass led a vocal quartet on 1997’s The Welcome Table, on his 2018 release, All Over the Place, he fronts the DBGs (Dave Bass Group), a musical quartet with the sonic signature of a pub blues-rock band. Bass delivers six straightforward selections on his latest project. The theme of the first three tracks is the importance of holding onto faith as the only way to overcome the difficulties of life (Hebrews 11:1). For example, the title track depicts the ...

Read More »

JGM Pick of the Week: August 27, 2018

“Love Somebody Today” Genessis & Nikki From the album Genessis & Nikki https://genessisandnikki.com/ By Bob Marovich If the sister duo Genessis & Nikki wanted the single from their self-titled debut album to be a whopper, they sure picked one in “Love Somebody Today.” Written by Riley Clemmons, Gabe Patillo, and the duo’s producer Phil Sillas, “Love Somebody Today” is a rousing, joy-filled anthem that lunges at the listener with a battery of hooks and inspirational messages. The ladies not only believe that love has the power to change the world, they declare that it’s our job to take the first step ...

Read More »

“So Glad” – Lady Voncile Belcher

“So Glad” Lady Voncile Belcher Glory Bound Records (release date: June 15, 2018) By Bob Marovich When Lady Voncile Belcher opens her mouth to sing, you know she has been formed in the crucible of traditional gospel music. On her latest single, “So Glad,” Lady Voncile sings and shouts unbridled exclamations of enthusiasm to a God who has protected her from danger. Her gratitude transitions into praise as the song grinds to a conclusion.  It’s tried and true old school. A longstanding member of the Gospel Music Workshop of America, Lady Voncile’s first lead vocal on a recording was “Do You ...

Read More »

Robert E. Person – Classic Covers (EP)

Robert E. Person Classic Covers (EP) REP Music (release date: June 1, 2018) www.roberteperson.com By Bob Marovich Washington DC singer Robert E. Person has peppered his previous projects with songs representing a variety of genres. His latest release, Classic Covers, is more of a jazz than a sacred EP, though it includes his very fine recent single, a collaboration with Richard Smallwood on the latter’s 1989 “I Give You Praise.” Among the classic covers Person offers are the Stylistics’ social commentary piece “People Make the World Go Round,” and “My Favorite Things,” from The Sound of Music. Both benefit from deft ...

Read More »

“Ain’t Gonna Whistle Dixie Anymore” – Paul Metsa and Willie Walker feat. Sounds of Blackness

“Ain’t Gonna Whistle Dixie Anymore” Paul Metsa and Willie Walker feat. Sounds of Blackness Rock the Cause Records (release date: August 8, 2018) http://irockthecause.org/aint-gonna-whistle-dixie-anymore-paul-me By Bob Marovich This multi-cultural mashup of genres—think Nitty Gritty Dirt Band meets gospel choir—is the ideal backdrop for a song denouncing white nationalism and its brazen disregard of historic fact and common sense. Reflecting on the memory of recent marches, hate crimes, Nazism, and symbols of the Confederacy, Twin Cities folk singer Paul Metsa, blues singer Willie Walker, and the award-winning Sounds of Blackness declare they “ain’t gonna whistle Dixie anymore.” In a play on the original lyrics ...

Read More »

JGM Pick of the Week: August 20, 2018

“Oh How I Love You” Zacardi Cortez Blacksmoke Music Worldwide (release date: March 8, 2018) By Bob Marovich “You see, a man ain’t supposed to cry,” Zacardi Cortez sings on “Oh How I Love You,” but the tears flow anyhow as he delivers lyrics that gush with gratitude to Jesus for, well, everything. And while Cortez admits to falling prey to the very human interest in material things, “at the end of the day,” nothing matters but Jesus. This mid-tempo song opens with a blithe piano and expands into a delicious mix of retro soul and urban AC. Cortez’s vocals ...

Read More »