Reviews

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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“Mary Did You Know” – The Bishops Quartet

“Mary Did You Know” The Bishops Quartet From I Know What Prayer Can Do (2014) www.thebishopsquartet.net Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene’s “Mary Did You Know” is one of the two or three Christmas songs to come out in recent times with real “legs,” or longevity. The Bishops Quartet gives it a contemporary quartet arrangement, and it works. Franky Smith’s electric guitar scatters blue notes like pixie dust while Thurman Hargrove Jr. lays down a warm Hammond B3 foundation. The quartet, comprised of Bishops Alvin Palmer (manager), Thurman Hargrove, James Coleman, and Elder Robert Brice, was organized in Orlando, Florida, and recorded ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: December 3, 2014

“Do Life Big” Jamie Grace From the Gotee album Ready to Fly (2014) www.gotee.com Isn’t it a pity and a shame how many in the gospel music community ignored Jamie Grace’s “Beautiful Day,” despite its longevity on the Billboard charts? It reminds me of how songstress Heather Headley won a Grammy for her worship masterpiece, Audience of One, yet the album made no noise at the Stellar Awards that year. Nevertheless, Grace’s new single, “Do Life Big” ought to help awaken more in the industry to the cheerful, life-embracing inspirational singer. Sugary-sweet pop beats support Grace’s effervescent vocals. “I came ...

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Fred Hammond – I Will Trust

Fred Hammond I Will Trust RCA Inspiration (release date: November 17, 2014) www.rcainspiration.com By Bob Marovich One thing’s for sure: listen to Fred Hammond and you can’t help but have a good time praising the Lord. His latest album, I Will Trust, is packed to the CD’s brim with bracing musicianship, creative melodies and arrangements, rich singing, and demonstrative lyrics. The opening selection, “Festival of Praise,” could easily have been an alternate title for the CD, as the entire album is a musical festival, a cornucopia of praise and worship, Fred Hammond style. Hammond shifts effortlessly from an appropriately Brazilian ...

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Various Artists – Motown Christmas

Various Artists Motown Christmas Motown Gospel (2014) www.motowngospel.com By Bob Marovich Motown Christmas is the best yuletide album I have listened to in years.  Gifted executive producer Aaron W. Lindsey (who also plays, writes, and sings on the album) seamlessly blends the old and the new with the sacred and secular to create an overall vibe that feels cozy and familiar. First off, the duet couplings are inspired. For example, Kierra Sheard (gospel) and Chrisette Michele (pop) give “Angels We Have Heard On High” a beautifully traditional reading while injecting just enough of their own vocal personalities to make it ...

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JGM Christmas Pick of the Week: November 29, 2014

“Share Some Love” The North Carolina Community Choir From A Malaco Christmas (2014) Malaco Records www.malaco.com The irresistible North Carolina Community Choir offers this easygoing reminder of the real reason for the season. A team of tuneful soloists handles the verses, the choir harmonizes on the chorus, and a saxophone adds jazzy fills as well as a solo in the middle. What was supposed to be a one-time recording gig for a group of singers in 2010 became the genesis of the North Carolina Community Choir.  The ensemble produced an album, A Story To Tell, that garnered five of five stars ...

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