Pick of the Week

JGM Pick of the Week: May 23, 2016

“Mother Emanuel” Shirley Caesar From the forthcoming Entertainment One Music CD Fill This House Available from digital retail outlets Gospel songs with explicit social messages are a rarity these days, making Shirley Caesar’s sobering memorial to the shooting at “Mother” Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, stand out all the more. The mournful piano introduction gives way to Pastor Shirley’s head-shaking solo on the contrast of such a hateful act of racism happening in a sanctuary of love and acceptance. She reminds us that the name of the church, Emanuel, means “God is with us.” Shirley doesn’t as much ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: May 16, 2016

“Will You Be Ready” Roy & Revelation 4 Winds Records / Malaco (2016) www.malaco.com On their new single, “Will You Be Ready,” Stanley Roy Ladson and his group, aka Roy & Revelation, give Christian eschatology a 1960s party dance beat, making the strong medicine more palatable. Implicit in the Hopkins, South Carolina, gospel quartet’s expression about “my Jesus” is that they are beckoning others to follow from within salvation’s inner circle.  They are saved and want you to be, also. While the radio edit has all the ingredients to sell the song over the air-lanes, the eight-plus minute extended version provides listeners ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: May 9, 2016

“Better Days” Le’Andria Johnson Available from digital media outlets Since hearing her 2011 debut EP, The Awakening of Le’Andria Johnson, I have considered Le’Andria Johnson to be one of modern gospel music’s most expressive voices. Paired with the right songs, such as her debut single, “Jesus,” she can be downright lethal. “Better Days” is one of those right songs. Its relaxed but intense vibe provides a soulful accompaniment to a message of encouragement in the midst of life’s many storms. Knowing Johnson’s story, “Better Days” could easily be autobiographical, but regardless, it’s certainly a testimony for anyone living in these ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: May 2, 2016

“Oh How We Love YOU” Tiff Joy From the Tyscot Records CD Tiff Joy www.tyscot.com The second single from Tiff (“Amazing”) Joy’s eponymously titled album from 2015, “Oh How We Love YOU” finds the award-winning singer-songwriter leading an exuberant group of background vocalists on one of those rigorous praise pieces that may not be in the hymnbook but appears with regularity at gospel music programs. Written by a team of talented songwriters (Tiff Joy, Phillip and Angel Feaster, and Calvin Rodgers), “Oh How We Love YOU” has so much motive power, clapping along is almost compulsory. Destined to be a ...

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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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