Reviews

“My Inspiration” – Angela “Missy” Billups

“My Inspiration” Angela “Missy” Billups E’Mazin Entertainment/Missy B. Music (2014) Best known for her churchy traditional songs, Angela “Missy” Billups, accompanied by a background vocal group, delivers a contemporary worship song to express gratitude to God for graces bestowed. She drops a couple of lines of verse from “Total Praise” in the vamp, then concludes, “When I thought was going to lose my mind / God, you stepped in the nick of time.” The song is good and shows that Missy is exploring new territory for her singles, but I much prefer Missy’s traditional side.

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Tammy Smith – Instrument of Praise

Tammy Smith Instrument of Praise www.tammysmithgospel.com By Bob Marovich Instrument of Praise by Chicago’s Tammy Smith sandwiches slices of traditional singing between healthy helpings of contemporary gospel with a smooth jazz patina. Nowhere is this combination more apparent than on the two part “The Blood.” Smith begins by offering Andrae Crouch’s classic “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power” in a traditional vein, consistent with the original, then switches to a modern interpretation on the second part. As a singer, Smith possesses a light soprano that becomes even more delicate on the top notes. Her style suits the album’s majority ...

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Sallie and Cora Martin – Just A Little Talk With Jesus

Sallie and Cora Martin Just A Little Talk with Jesus Gospel Friend (release date: September 16, 2014) www.cityhallrecords.com By Bob Marovich Sallie Martin, the Mother of Gospel Music, paved the way for those who paved the way. A no-nonsense singer, group leader, choir director, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, Martin helped Thomas A. Dorsey sell his catalog of songs before going into business with Kenneth Morris in 1940 to form the Martin & Morris Music Studio. It is in 1940, when Sallie was a member of the Martin & Morris Singers, where Just A Little Talk With Jesus, Gospel Friend’s superb twelve-year ...

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The Journal’s Pick of the Week: September 15, 2014

“The Blood Medley” Kathy Taylor From the forthcoming CD Spirit of a Grateful People www.kathytaylorlive.com A medley of blood songs and the multi-hued voice of Kathy Taylor go together like bacon and eggs. Taylor sings the notes off the staff on this slow burner, which demonstrates the singer’s vibrant interplay with the live audience. She croons, shouts, and squalls to accompaniment that includes a warmly warbling B3 and drum crashes like lightning strikes. Taylor’s interpolation of Andrae Crouch’s “The Blood Will Never Lose It’s Power” is a preaching moment. The medley could have gone on even longer. Kathy Taylor currently ...

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Kevin LeVar and One Sound – Destiny-Live at the Dream Center…and More

Kevin LeVar and One Sound Destiny—Live at the Dream Center…and More OneSound Entertainment LLC (August, 2014) www.kevinlevar.com By Bob Marovich Singer-songwriter Kevin LeVar is among the new generation of male gospel crooners that includes Earnest Pugh, Micah Stampley, Keith Williams, and Brian Courtney Wilson. He also knows how to craft a memorable melody, as demonstrated by his singles, “A Heart That Forgives,” “We’re Only Getting Started,” and “You Are Not Alone.” Ballads have been, and continue to be, LeVar’s sweet spot, and he adds two more to his oeuvre on Destiny—Live at the Dream Center…and More. The songs, “Your Destiny” ...

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“Just For Me” – Monica Lisa Stevenson

“Just For Me” Monica Lisa Stevenson Puretonez Productions (2014) www.monicazmuzik.com With Kenneth Mosley’s “Just For Me,” neo-traditional singer Monica Lisa Stevenson delivers a gospel blues that not only extols Jesus’ sacrifice for His people, but provides a song suitable for the coming Christmas season. The organ chirps and horns blast as MLS declares, “He was born to die so that I may live” and “God chose a virgin to birth out his plan / To restore relationship to every sinful man.” During what blues people might call the “low down” portion but gospel folks call the “vamp,” MLS shouts and ...

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Gladys Knight – Where My Heart Belongs

Gladys Knight Where My Heart Belongs Shadow Mountain Records (release date: September 9, 2014) www.gladysknight.com By Bob Marovich Like many R&B and soul artists, the multi-Grammy winner Gladys Knight got her start in the church. It’s to the church she returns for her latest release, Where My Heart Belongs. The album finds Gladys Knight singing as strong as ever and delivering the selections in her signature tear-stained voice as if they were personal prayers or testimonies. Indeed, she has said, “I vividly remember the time in my life when I felt lost, as if something was missing. I was desperately seeking ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: September 8, 2014

“Mighty God” Valerie Woodard (2014) www.valeriewoodard.com Melding an ‘80s R&B musical background to a decidedly contemporary melody, much like the Clark Sisters who she cites as an inspiration, Valerie Rogers Woodard expresses her admiration for God with an infectious, shoulder-shaking rhythm. The wordless interjection in the chorus is guaranteed to get audiences singing and dancing along with her. The song is based on Psalm 150, so that is appropriate. The singer-songwriter lives in Wilson, North Carolina, and is currently preparing her sophomore project, Relationship II: Closer.

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B. Chase Williams & ShaBach – Live Again: Bigger, Better, Greater

B. Chase Williams & ShaBach Live Again: Bigger, Better, Greater Dream Gospel / Capitol Christian Distribution (2014) www.bchasewilliams.com By Bob Marovich Organized in Cincinnati more than 20 years ago by singer/songwriter/musician B. Chase Williams, ShaBach is a full-throated choir that performs with zest. They follow their 2010 R3 –Redeemed! Reconciled! Released! with another rhythmically-titled album—Live Again: Bigger, Better, Greater. As with many albums by male-led small choir, the lead vocalists on Live Again add the sparkle that distinguishes this project from others. Several singers shine on Live Again, notably Terrence Cotton on the smooth jazzy and Whitfield-esque “My Everything;” Melodi ...

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Kebra – Under the Influence

Kebra Under the Influence Mokeb Entertainment (2014) www.kebramoore.com By Bob Marovich It is no understatement when, on her new EP Under the Influence, singer-songwriter Kebra Moore sings “I have a testimony.” On Christmas Eve 1999, Kebra, her fiancé, and fourteen-month-old son were heading home to Arkansas from New Orleans, where they were making final wedding preparations, when they were involved in an auto accident. While the fiancé and son escaped without injury, Kebra was left a paraplegic. Turning tragedy into possibility, Kebra became a spokesperson for the disabled. She was named Miss Wheelchair Mississippi 2013 and earlier this year launched ...

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