Pick of the Week

JGM Pick of the Week: April 25, 2016

“Glorify” The Gospel Starlights (released March 2016) www.gospelstarlights.com The Gospel Starlights of Tifton, Georgia, have been on the gospel highway since 1990. What is distinctive about the quartet is that it is comprised of four women and one man, as opposed to the more typical single-gender quartet structure. It makes sense when you realize that all the members are family: they formed the group in the home of their parents, Bennie Frank and Betty Gean Hill. One could say that the male-female personnel makes it more of a gospel group than a quartet, but make no mistake: on their new ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: April 18, 2016

“To Be Loved By God” Kimberly Palmer-Blackwell From the Thornewell Records album The Best of Kimberly Palmer-Blackwell, Vol. 1 www.cdbaby.com/cd/kimberlypalmer14 It’s Kimberly Palmer-Blackwell’s soaring, soulful vocal that sells “To Be Loved By God,” a heartfelt melody and just-right arrangement reminiscent of early 1980s R&B balladry. To depict God’s love as better than all earthly desires, Kimberly builds the emotion without resorting to melismatic runs or shouts. One can imagine the singer standing flatfooted and alone on an altar or stage, belting out this song in a powerful, resonant tone. Born in Ashtabula, Ohio, Kimberly Palmer-Blackwell is a member of the ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: April 11, 2016

“Old Ship of Zion” The Gospel Sensations From the MCI Music Group album Everybody www.gospelsensations.com This may be the first time a gospel group has landed two Picks of the Week with their first two submissions to the Journal of Gospel Music. And for good reason. “Old Ship of Zion” is another a cappella gem from the Gospel Sensations, who evoke the Mighty Wonders of Aquasco, Maryland’s splendid 1970s version but add chiming harmonies to this chestnut. Organized by Robert C. Marion Jr. as a way to pay tribute to the artists of yesteryear and today, the Gospel Sensations of ...

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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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