Pick of the Week

JGM Pick of the Week: March 28, 2016

“Living for Jesus” Sophiya Rocktown Records (2015) http://praiseworldradio.com/sophiya-living-for-jesus What makes “Living for Jesus” special is the robust elegance with which singer, songwriter, worship leader, and TV personality Sophia Ariba (aka Sophiya) delivers the lush, melodic worship ballad. Given the multicultural popularity of P&W today, the Nigerian singer’s style can fit in anywhere in the world. In addition to singing, Sophiya hosts “Dedication” on Loveworld Plus TV. The program gives viewers the opportunity to send special requests while enjoying contemporary gospel.

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JGM Pick of the Week: March 21, 2016

“Step Out on Water” Johnny B. Williams From the CD Songs for the World to Sing http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/johnnybwilliams22 “Step Out on Water” was one of JGM’s picks when we reviewed Johnny B. Williams’ album, Songs for the World to Sing, in April 2014. So rather than reinvent the wheel, here is what we wrote about the song nearly two years ago: “While Williams is comfortable in all gospel genres, he dazzles in the traditional arena. Perhaps neo-traditional would be a more accurate description, as the Swan Silvertones’ influenced “Step Out on Water” is fixed in the quartet style–Williams’s voice is multi-tracked ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: March 7, 2016

“In the Hands of the Carpenter” Paula and Angie Lamon Records www.paulaandangiemusic.com With bluesier guitar licks, a funky rhythm, and a more soulful choir of BGVs than you typically hear in mainstream gospel, Paula and Angie’s “In the Hands of the Carpenter” calls on the Heavenly Carpenter to “tear down the walls in our heart” and fix us good: “Let Him change you, rearrange you, do what He wants to do.” “I’m a real fixer-upper,” the mother-daughter duo sings, and the construction analogies keep going from there. Refreshingly old-school in a Muscle Shoals sort of way. Paula Greene and Angie ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: March 1, 2016

“More Than a Friend” Deon Robertson From the forthcoming CD Simply Deon www.deonrobertson.com Introduced by a self-assuredly chirping organ, Deon Robertson’s churchy “More Than a Friend” is a bluesy gospel outing that riffs on Jesus’s many life-giving characteristics. Receiving strong support from a choir of treble voices, Robertson improvises by launching melismatic runs, moaning, shouting, and foisting glissandos up and down the stave. As far as the song’s meaning, that is best heard coming from Robertson himself: “My new single, ‘More Than A Friend,’ was written by James Reed and became a true testament to my life when I was ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: February 15, 2016

“Breakthrough” Bonita Burney Simmons (released October 19, 2015) www.bonitaburneysimmons.com Bonita Burney Simmons infuses her single, “Breakthrough,” with a toolkit of traditional church soloist techniques. Melismatic runs, soulful top notes, and lyric attacks a la Jennifer Hudson–all in the service of encouraging listeners to stay faithful, because their own breakthroughs are on the way. Born in Connecticut and raised in North Carolina, Simmons has been a singer since preschool. She entered the ministry in 2000 and serves as Co-Pastor and Outreach Coordinator of the Family Worship Church, “Ministry of Restoration,” in Kinston, North Carolina, where George E. Fields Jr. is pastor. A ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: February 1, 2016

“By Myself” Deon Kipping From the RCA Inspiration EP A Place Called Victory (2015) www.rcainspiration.com The latest single from Deon Kipping’s A Place Called Victory EP is among his best tracks to date. “By Myself” has a hypnotic and ever-expanding arrangement, layered bit by bit with background vocals and more musicians until it apexes, then cools down.  All of this underpins a simple message: without God’s help, nothing we do individually will work. God must be in these details, because the recording works.  It could well be one of JGM‘s Best Singles of the Year.  Guaranteed to get arms waving ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: January 25, 2016

“Call Him” Earl Bynum feat. Andra Cross Mann-Up Muzik (2015) www.earlbynummusic.com Minister Earl Bynum is known throughout the gospel music industry for his award-winning work with large choirs, but make no mistake: he is also a solo singer. His 2009 Open My Heart album garnered two Stellar Award nominations: Contemporary Male Vocalist of the Year and Contemporary Choir of the Year. Bynum does some of his most soulful singing on “Call Him,” the debut single from his forthcoming solo album. During what might be described as a sacred slow jam, he encourages—nay, pleads with—the listener to call on Jesus because He answers prayer ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: January 18, 2016

“Trust and Depend” Voncile Belcher From the CD Phenomenal www.ladyvoncile.com Taken at pulse-racing praise break tempo, “Trust and Depend” finds traditional gospel singer Lady Voncile Belcher clad in her shouting shoes, evangelizing to the congregation about the importance of leaning on the Lord during the toughest of times. If your “life’s in despair” or your “bills are due and all your money’s gone,” the Alabama native sings, trust Him. You can imagine her walking the full length of the aisle teaching this time-honored lesson. Meanwhile, the synth imitates brass as the drums bear down with a vengeance. Quick and effective.

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JGM Pick of the Week: January 11, 2016

“Make a Way” Shanta Gray From her CD The Blood (2014) www.shantagraymusic.com On her new single, “Make a Way,” Alisa “Shanta” Gray doesn’t stray one iota from her roots as a member of the tradition-keeping Chicago Mass Choir, New Direction (founded by her husband, Jeral V. Gray), and other Chicago-based gospel choral ensembles. In fact, the single has a distinctly Cosmopolitan Warriors vibe with the frenetic pace, handclapping choir, churchy vocals, charging musicians, crowd-grabbing vamp, and Gray’s shouting vocals topping it all. “Make a Way” couldn’t be more Chicago if it wore a Bears cap and called every bridge a ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: January 4, 2016

“Use What I Have” Dynamic Abraham Brothers From the album Family Reunion Available on iTunes In the spirit of Psalm 98, the Dynamic Abraham Brothers encourage praising God by making a joyful noise in all the Earth. If you have a harp, trumpet, or cornet, shouts the lead singer, go on ahead and use them. But if you don’t have those instruments, “use what you have.” To the strutting downbeat characteristic of gospel quartets in drive mode, the Abraham Brothers demonstrate how using one’s hands, legs, and even eyes to clap, dance, and witness in praise of God’s blessings are more than adequate ...

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