Pick of the Week

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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JGM Pick of the Week: January 16, 2017

“All God’s Children Ain’t Free” Level One Sound presents the Jones Family Singers www.jonesfamilysingers.com It seemed appropriate, on this remembrance day for the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., that JGM should spotlight the Jones Family Singers’ newly-released cover of Johnny Cash’s “All God’s Children Ain’t Free.” Bishop Fred Jones Sr. channels Cash’s folksy rumination while daughter Alexis Jones-Giles accentuates the most important lines of the lyric with the vocal force of a human trumpet. The echo-y harmonies and jangly tambourine, when combined with the steady and minimal country beat, evoke Cash’s original from his 1965 Orange Blossom Special (Columbia Records). Recorded at Level One ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: January 9, 2017

“Whoa” Bryan Andrew Wilson Bryan’s Songs/CE Music Bryan Andrew Wilson opens 2017 with a well-crafted single whose message of encouragement is a life saver in the midst of a swirling rapid. “I see past my now / I know it will get better,” he sings, and as the music and voices build, so does the buoyancy of the message. Nevertheless, the musicians keep the drama at bay, rolling at an easy clip to let the lyrics do the heavy lifting. “Whoa” is a fine follow up to “Overflow” and much closer to “Turning Away” in appeal. Check out Bryan’s crystalline ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: January 2, 2017

“I Will Be Waiting” Guro Elverhoi (released October 20, 2016) www.guromusic.com “I Will Be Waiting” is a new single from Guro Elverhoi, a talented singer with a delicate and beautiful voice that evokes a young Joni Mitchell. Led by an acoustic guitar, the song is a wispy Christian folk ballad brimming with similes about seeking God’s guidance patiently. From Roeyken, Norway, where she directed a local youth choir and received a Cultural Scholarship for her many contributions to the area’s arts scene, Guro graduated from Berklee College of Music in 2015. She is now based in Los Angeles, where she ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: December 26, 2016

“Away in a Manager” The Wardlaw Brothers Available on iTunes Appropriately, the final Pick of the Week for 2016 is a beloved nineteenth-century Christmas carol given a contemporary flourish by the Wardlaw Brothers. Cascading harmonies introduce a slight variation on the carol’s traditional melody, giving the piece even more of a lullaby-like quality. A delicate string-led arrangement underpins the group’s ensemble and solo work. But what makes the Wardlaw Brothers’ singing on this carol especially appealing is a prominent bass vocal line that complements the complex high register harmonies. By the conclusion, one can understand why the Wardlaw Brothers have been nicknamed ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: December 13, 2016

“Born Again” Kinsmen www.kinsmenmusic.com Kinsmen is a Chicago-area quartet of young men with old souls. Their single, “Born Again,” is an up-tempo celebration of spiritual renewal peppered with old-as-the-hills lyric couplets, all propelled by a hip-slapping gospel quartet beat.  At the same time, the musicians give the song a contemporary feel, as do the high tenor harmonies and sporadic appearance of electronics. Originally known as Youth Edition and rebranded as Kinsmen now that the members are young adults, the quartet is comprised of first cousins Kevin Vasser, Keith Vasser, Van Moody, and Reggie Tillman. Trust me when I tell you that, with ...

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JGM Pick of the week: December 6, 2016

“Operator 911” Chris Byrd & the Heavenaires From the album Diversified (released August 2016) Available from digital music outlets Chris Byrd and the Heavenaires dust off and update “Operator,” the Cleveland-based Friendly Brothers’ 1959 classic covered in the 1970s by a cappella vocal group the Manhattan Transfer.  In their hands, it is now known as “Operator 911.” It doesn’t matter that the telephone operator has gone the way of the telephone booth and directory assistance. With a funky, bass-driven beat and a call-and-response vamp (“It’s a matter of urgency / I’m calling 911”), the quartet makes it its own and ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: November 28, 2016

“Let It Be Done” Albert White Overboard Records (2016) www.cdbaby.com/cd/albertwhiteandavop From the opening moans and the gospel waltz tempo to the blue notes and the opening line, “I know sometimes life gets you down and it seems like there’s trouble all around,” everything about “Let It Be Done” shouts traditional gospel. Then there’s the warbling organ, and the path is set for a sure enough hand-waver from Baton Rouge, Louisiana’s Albert White. The lyric contains a fascinating curveball, though. After hearing White recount everything that might be going wrong, the listener expects him to offer a direct reassurance, something along the lines ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: November 23, 2016

“Excuse Me” Chrystal Rucker HBK Media (2016) Chrystal Rucker is one of the most gifted vocalists in gospel music today. Although some of her best work thus far has been on passionately rendered slow songs, “Excuse Me” gives her a chance to front a shoulder-shaking praiser. On “Excuse Me,” Rucker only hints at the reasons she shouts and lifts her hands in praise. She sings: “Wish I had the time to tell you, but you would not believe / All of the things God has done for me.” Just thinking about God’s goodness gets her all verklempt, which means more ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: November 14, 2016

“Rock Steady” Angela Bennett (2016) Available from digital media outlets An alumna of Houston’s Southeast Inspirational Choir, where she sang under the direction of notables Shirley Joiner, Carl Preacher, and Brenda Waters (the choir also produced Yolanda Adams), Angela Dannett Bennett offers an electrifying performance on “Rock Steady.” Bennett and her background vocalists encourage listeners to be strong and cling to the rock during the storm. She then takes the meteorology metaphor a step further: “Have you any fair weather friends? / When trouble comes, the fellowship ends?” she asks. Don’t worry, she adds: “He will never leave you alone.” ...

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