Reviews

Blind Boys of Alabama & Taj Mahal – Talkin’ Christmas

Blind Boys of Alabama & Taj Mahal Talkin’ Christmas Sony Masterworks (2014) www.sonymasterworks.com By Bob Marovich Like the Chieftains, the Blind Boys of Alabama have been embraced by some of today’s hippest rock and roots musicians. On Talkin’ Christmas, the gospel quartet that is now an American icon celebrates the holidays with musical polymath Taj Mahal. Mind you, this is not the first time the Blind Boys have tackled the Christmas canon. That was 51 years ago, when the group was on Vee Jay Records. They and then-label mates the Swan Silvertones, Charles Taylor, and others delivered fairly standard versions of ...

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Marcel Anderson – Still Living

Marcel Anderson Still Living Marcel Anderson Music (2014) www.marcelanderson.com By Bob Marovich You’ve heard the saying, “I don’t look like what I’ve been through.” Marcel Anderson doesn’t look or sound like what he’s been through. The title of Anderson’s CD is not hyperbole. His story, starkly presented in the accompanying book of the same title, is one of surviving a brutal attack that included severe sexual abuse. Despite the scars, he does not dwell on the past but lofts hallelujahs, in a handsome, elastic baritone voice, for surviving, and focuses on moving forward in his personal and spiritual journey. Still ...

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“Flow” – Jonathan Valencia

“Flow” Jonathan Valencia From the CD Kingdom Bound www.jonathanvalenciamusic.com This teenaged Rhythm of Gospel Award winning and Stellar nominated artist is better known for his Christian rap, “Kingdom Bound,” but he also sings. On “Flow,” a simple, atmospheric song with techno overtones, Jonathan calls on the Holy Spirit to pour into him so much that the blessings overflow. The innocent vulnerability in Jonathan’s voice suggests that behind the rap bravado is the fragility of childhood that we all carry around but are afraid to show the world.

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JGM Pick of the Week: December 14, 2014

“Gonna Tell the World About You” Eddie Ruth Bradford From the CD Blessed to Be a Blessing www.eddieruthbradfordmusic.com Eddie Ruth Bradford’s latest single is deliciously old-school, complete with whirring organ, funky backbeat, and multi-tracked quartet of voices on the chorus. By referencing Bible stories that demonstrate Jesus’s ability to give eyesight to the blind and heal the sick, she sends encouragement to listeners struggling through life’s trials. Bradford evokes Mavis Staples with her world-weary contralto, as does the deep and rootsy arrangement supporting her. The Stellar-nominated Bradford hails from Clarksville, Mississippi. She sang with her family group as a child and had dreams of singing gospel ...

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“Amazing” – Livre’

“Amazing” Livre’ Glory2Glory Records/PRODIGY Entertainment Group www.livremusic.com Taking their name from the Portugese word for “free,” Livre’ (pronounced Liv-Ray) is a young and talented vocal harmony quintet from the Bronx. JGM first learned of them in 2012 upon the release of their single, “I Will Be Alright.”  The song earned the site’s coveted Pick of the Week slot. The group’s newest single, “Amazing,” is packed with energetically sung hallelujahs to the Almighty for not giving up on evryone and, most especially, for “[taking] the fall” for our sins.  They incorporate a smidgen of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” near ...

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Yancy – Pequena Fiesta de Alabanza

Yancy y Amigos Pequena Fiesta de Alabanza (Praise Party) Elevate Entertainment (2014) www.yancynotnancy.com By Bob Marovich Christian singer-songwriter Yancy began writing kid-friendly songs for the littlest congregants at Church on the Move in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her “Little Praise Party” series of compact disc and DVD song collections caught on so well that she has, with able assistance from Christian music stars Jaci Velasquez and Nic Gonzales (two of the “amigos”), translated some of them into Spanish. Thus was born Pequena Fiesta de Alabanza. This Spanish-language collection will certainly satisfy its intended demographic. It contains fifteen short, punchy songs bursting with ...

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“Blessing Me” – J. Nichole

“Blessing Me” J. Nichole From No More Running (released October 2014) www.myjnicholesong.com Juliet Nichole Jones, aka J. Nichole, has a huge, soulful voice that is equally suited for sacred and secular music. Her original aspiration was to sing pop, but when she rededicated herself to the church, gospel music won over. To a subtly thumping beat, the swaggering “Blessing Me” finds the singer declaring how she has received God’s blessings, despite her worthiness or unworthiness. Top-shelf production and a powerful voice combine to make this a stunning selection. From Pennsylvania, J. Nichole is the 2013 Newsome Award Winner and 2014 ...

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When I Reach That Heavenly Shore: Unearthly Black Gospel 1926-1936

Various Artists When I Reach That Heavenly Shore: Unearthly Black Gospel 1926-1936 Tompkins Square (released December 9, 2014) www.tompkinssquare.com By Bob Marovich Tompkins Square continues its stretch of quality black sacred music reissues with the three-CD When I Reach That Heavenly Shore: Unearthly Black Gospel 1926-1936. Using 1926 as a starting point is not a random decision. That year saw the release of debut recordings by two seminal artists: Church of God in Christ powerhouse Arizona Dranes (who has already received a handsome Tompkins Square retrospective) and Baptist minister Rev. J. M. Gates of Atlanta, who became a bestselling recording ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: December 8, 2014

“He’ll Make It Alright” Pastor Antoine Hutchins featuring the Christian Unity Choir From the CD He Still Loves Me (2014) www.cdbaby.com/cd/pastorantoinehutchins No doubt the members of Christian Unity Baptist Church in Waldorf, Maryland, shout whenever Pastor Antoine Hutchins and the Christian Unity Choir break out the churchy Tommies hit, “He’ll Make It Alright.” This old-school rouser about the power of the Lord to fix any problem is appropriately joyous. Hutchins calls, the choir answers, and the musicians drive the rollicking tempo. “Y’all might as well have some fun with this one,” declares Hutchins, and they do.

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Book Review: Nothing But Love in God’s Water

Nothing But Love in God’s Water: Volume 1: Black Sacred Music from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement Robert Darden Penn State University Press (224 pages) By Bob Marovich “A singing army is a winning army, and a singing labor movement cannot be defeated.” So proclaimed labor leader John L. Lewis, and as Baylor University associate professor Robert Darden argues in his new book, Nothing But Love in God’s Water, the statement is equally relevant if “army” is replaced with “people” and “labor” with “civil rights.” Darden, former gospel editor for Billboard, author of the well-respected gospel music ...

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