Reviews

“When I Stopped Playing with Jesus” – LaTonya Earl

“When I Stopped Playing with Jesus” LaTonya Earl (private release, 2014) To purchase a copy, email Latonyaearl1@gmail.com Houston gospel singer LaTonya Earl gets transparent on “When I Stopped Playing with Jesus.” After “playing with,” or not fully accepting, the Lord, Earl “plants her feet” in church and sees the light. She cleverly interpolates the gospel hymns “I Saw the Light” and “Jesus, the Light of the World” to reaffirm her conversion message. The handclapping rhythm and whirling organ give the song a traditional feel, and a call-and-response with the background vocalists is like a quartet vamp, but an R&B bounce throughout ...

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Edna Gallmon Cooke – My Joy: Rare Recordings 1948-1966

Edna Gallmon Cooke My Joy: Rare Recordings 1948-1966 Gospel Friend (release date: February 27, 2017) www.gospelfriend.com By Bob Marovich Edna Gallmon Cooke may be one of the most underappreciated female vocalists of gospel’s Golden Age. Although her voice was small when compared to belters like Mahalia Jackson, Emily Bram-Bibby, and Ernestine Washington, what Cooke lacked in volume she made up for in finesse. She stirred church congregations by starting her performance soft and slow and building to a fiery crescendo. She knew when to shout, when to drop into a bluesy disposition, when to evangelize, and how to work with ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: February 6, 2017

“God’s FreqWincey” Wincey From God’s FreqWincey (released in 2015) www.winceycomusic.com On her new single, “God’s FreqWincey,” Wincey Terry-Bryant plays off her first name to testify about how prayer gives her a clearer focus on her past, present, and future. The song has a breezy California vibe and Wincey’s singing has the light touch of fellow Newark native Dionne Warwick. Wincey has healthy doses of performing experience, having worked in the television and film industries, and even recorded with jazz great Grover Washington Jr. Being on “God’s FreqWincey” certainly enables Wincey to do plenty of important work. She runs a nonprofit called Nanababies ...

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Miami Mass Choir – Live at the Adrienne Arsht Center

Miami Mass Choir Miami Mass Choir Live at the Adrienne Arsht Center MaJo Records (release date: December 9, 2016) Available from online music retail outlets By Bob Marovich Having fun while worshiping is the overall impression one gets listening to Miami Mass Choir Live at the Adrienne Arsht Center, the choir’s latest full-length release in some fifteen years. And I don’t mean frivolous fun, but a bouncy joie de vivre from enjoying the worship experience. In other words, no new age religion, no extended moments of quiet rapture, no overly complex arrangements, no whispering all over the place.  It’s about extroverted ...

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“My Brothers” – Brotha Mike

“My Brothers” Brotha Mike From the EP Second Chance (released December 2016) www.cdbaby.com/cd/brothamike1 Gospel music is made for such a time as this. On “My Brothers,” Detroit’s Brotha Mike defends those who haven’t had the same opportunities as others and those who deserve a second chance. “They didn’t make us,” he sings, “so they can’t break us.” As a saxophone wails and the arrangement gets progressively bluesier, Brotha Mike moves from empathy to encouragement: “Keep your head high / You don’t have to look down.” By the end, he is enjoining everyone to come together “to make a better world.” ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: January 30, 2017

“I Got Out” Bryan Popin Little Boy Wonder Music (release date: January 15, 2017) www.bryanpopin.com Dubbed “Little Boy Wonder” by Stevie Wonder, gospel artist Bryan Popin infuses”I Got Out” with a Pentecostal-flavored explosion of gratitude to God for helping him escape his personal trials.  Popin assures that God will help you out of your “going through,” also. The single is reminiscent of the traditional-meets-contemporary blend of “Alright” and “Thank You Jesus” from Popin’s 2013 album, You Can Make It. From an old-school congregational singalong opening to its evangelist-on-fire vamp, “I Got Out” rocks so hard, it burns to a crisp, ...

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Various Artists: WOW GOSPEL 2017

Various Artists WOW GOSPEL 2017 RCA Inspiration (release date: January 27, 2017) www.rcainspiration.com By Bob Marovich In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the annual WOW GOSPEL collection was my personal tutor for learning about the gospel scene. Back in those days, I was focused exclusively on vintage gospel music, and particularly the contributions of quartets. I looked forward with great anticipation to the next WOW GOSPEL project so I could take another lesson in modern gospel. I often purchased the two-CD set the day it was released. It was through WOW GOSPEL that I first encountered Richard Smallwood’s “Total Praise,” Mary ...

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Beverly Crawford – The Essential Beverly Crawford

Beverly Crawford The Essential Beverly Crawford JDI Records (release date: October 23, 2015) Available at Amazon.com By Bob Marovich The Essential Beverly Crawford is a best-of pulled from her two volume Live from Los Angeles series, released in 2008 and 2010, respectively, with a new song, “Deliverance,” tacked on top. Like Pastor Shirley Caesar, Crawford knows how to work a congregation, interspersing conversational spoken word in the midst of songs or evangelizing before and during her performances. You hear the singer swoop, squall, whoop, scream, and shout with preacher’s breath. She preaches and teaches. She does the holy dance. But she also offers ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: January 23, 2017

“No Rivals” Alyce Metallo www.AlyceMetallo.com Available at digital outlets Singing “My heart is yours / There are no rivals / You have no rivals, Jesus,” Alyce Metallo makes it clear who holds her heart for real. The pop melody is equal parts solemn and ear candy. It benefits from a soaring production courtesy of Nathan Walter, formerly of the Christian band Plus One. Metallo, a Washington, DC, singer-songwriter, wrote this song after the loss of her father, who disappeared on the snowy streets of DC for ten days and did not survive the cold.  It served as both catharsis and ...

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Monae Miller – #ForeverAlive (EP)

Monae Miller #ForeverAlive (EP) Monae Miller Music www.monaemillermusic.com By Bob Marovich The writer Anton Chekhov admonished his fellow writers: “If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.” This quote hung in the air while I was reviewing Kansas-born and Texas-based singer-songwriter Monae Miller’s #ForeverAlive EP. The photo on the front and back covers, as well as photos within the CD booklet, show her holding a guitar. So I anticipated that ...

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