Reviews

Page CXVI – The Church Calendar Series

Page CXVI The Church Calendar Series: – Advent to Christmas – Lent to Maundy Thursday – Good Friday to Easter (new release) www.pagecxvi.com By Bob Marovich I discovered the intriguing music of Page CXVI via an email from Noisetrade about Good Friday to Easter, the trio’s latest and final release in their Church Calendar Series. There they were—husband-and-wife team Reid and Latifah Phillips and Dann Stockton—rendering church hymns with humble melodies and a pop underlay of gently jangling guitars, emotional violin, and contemplative keys.  The group could just as easily direct a meditation service as make a college radio playlist. It turns out ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: March 23, 2015

“Just For Me” Tim Spady feat. Jeff Murrell Available on iTunes (release date: March 20, 2015) https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/just-for-me-feat.-jeff-murrell/id978825762 The always-melodic songwriter Tim Spady of Philadelphia teams with vocalist Jeff Murrell on the Easter-themed “Just For Me.” Over Spady’s dramatic and semi-classical musicianship, Murrell praises Jesus for paying the price “just for me.” His tear-stained tenor is the ideal medium for this song about the ultimate sacrifice.

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Tay Clemons – Journey to Love

Tay Clemons Journey to Love We Dream Entertainment Group (December 2014) www.tayclemons.com By Bob Marovich No love song written and performed by a woman is nearly as powerful and heartfelt as those she has written to express her affection for Jesus. Proof of this hypothesis can be found among the songs on Shantavia “Tay” Clemons’s debut album Journey to Love. Born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Clemons wraps her clear, pop-inflected voice around a stack of love songs to the Most High. She receives ample support in the first few cuts by processed electronic urban AC and solid rap interludes from ...

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Mississippi Mass Choir – Declaration of Dependence

Mississippi Mass Choir Declaration of Dependence Malaco Records (2014) www.malaco.com By Bob Marovich Halfway through Declaration of Dependence, the Mississippi Mass Choir’s latest album, I realized that the choir has inherited the mantle once worn by the celebrated Thompson Community Singers. Just as music ministers could not wait for the latest Tommies album to discover new songs and arrangements to teach their church choirs, Mississippi Mass Choir albums offer the same opportunity for today’s directors. Miss Mass hits such as “He’ll Carry You,” “God Made Me,” and “When I Rose This Morning” went from CD to choir lofts around the ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: March 16, 2015

“Persona” Corey Barksdale www.coreybarksdalemusic.com “I know this for myself / I don’t have to be like anyone else.” Corey Barksdale drops into a finger-popping acoustic groove to declare that he’s done listening to what other people think he should be. God knew what he was doing when he made me, he sings, and that’s all there is to it. Besides, “everybody fails at being just like somebody else.” This breezy, inspirational selection gives the vocally flexible Barksdale space to run up and down the bass and treble clefs like stair steps.

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“I Know a Man Named Jesus” – Shawn Brown & Da Boyz

“I Know a Man Named Jesus” Shawn Brown & Da Boyz 4 Winds Records (2015) www.malaco.com To a spanking backbeat and driving mid-tempo groove, Shawn Brown & Da Boyz of East St. Louis, Illinois, declare to their live audience that they know a man “who will make a way.” The answer to the rhetorical question is “Jesus,” and Brown and the group hammer home the point by exhorting “Jesus” back and forth during the song’s vamp. Their call-and-response akin to a preacher and his congregation, Shawn Brown & Da Boyz go old school on this neo-traditional composition. The quartet’s live CD, ...

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Documentary of Detroit Choir Resounds with Hallelujahs

By Bob Marovich, Journal of Gospel Music “Good things can still come out of Detroit.” This comment, from Let’s Have Some Church Detroit Style, might as well serve as the documentary’s subtitle. Directed by Michigan filmmaker Andrew Sacks, Let’s Have Some Church Detroit Style tells the story of Dr. E. LaQuint Weaver II and The Hallelujah Singers, a 25-member community choir from Detroit nominated in 2014 for nine Rhythm of Gospel Awards, including the highest honor, CD of the Year. The film explores the personal lives of Weaver and his choristers while chronicling the group’s preparation to attend the awards ...

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The Supreme Angels – The Next Level of the Legacy

The Supreme Angels The Next Level of the Legacy Raymarkable Music (release date: March 10, 2015) By Bob Marovich The Supreme Angels are among the quartets that have managed to remain active on the gospel highway, albeit with personnel changes, for more than a half century. Released this week, The Next Level of the Legacy is their newest, and appropriately titled, album. Appropriately titled because it signals the group’s commitment to keep singing in a post-Howard “Slim” Hunt milieu. The passing of Hunt, as well as of Robert “Sugar” Hightower and Al Dent over the course of five years, could ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: March 10, 2015

“I Got Better Coming” LaVarnga Hubbard Utopia Music Group (2015) On her new single, Lady LaVarnga Hubbard of Chicago has “got better coming,” and she’s not afraid to shout down the church rafters to let you know. Church shouting is what the “Duchess of Gospel Music” does.  She rollicks along on the up-tempo, traditional-laden “I Got Better Coming” like a twin sister of fellow Chicagoans Lemmie Battles or Angie Spivey. Old-fashioned gospel music will never die as long as the likes of Lady LaVarnga have a breath in their body. She comes from the Caravans-Davis Sisters-Gospel Harmonettes tradition, where Zion ...

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“The Wonder of You” – Jenise La Vonne

“The Wonder of You” Jenise La Vonne www.lovejeniselavonne.com Although the wispy classical-and-acoustic-guitar intro of “The Wonder of You” reveals the marvel that Jenise La Vonne feels in the presence of the Lord, her penetrating vocals offer a more dramatic scenario: she’s actually drifted away and is looking to reclaim that time “when I first believed.” Nominated for four 2015 Rhythm of Gospel Awards, indie artist Jenise is a PK who has literally grown up in church. She’s fervent in her delivery, a singer navigating the deceptively complex demands of a gospel song. The innocence that “The Wonder of You” exudes will likely appeal ...

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