Singles

“I Tried Him For Myself” – Ellen Hayes & Harmonee

“I Tried Him For Myself” Ellen Hayes & Harmonee True Inspiration Music Group (2015) www.meetellenhayes.com A breezy but insistent mid-tempo rhythm propels this soulful selection from Detroit family group Ellen Hayes & Harmonee. On “I Tried Him For Myself,” mother (Ellen) and daughters (Harmonee) offer their testimony of God’s greatness, based on experience. He made a way, he opened doors, he opened eyes. They “know too much about Him” to disbelieve. What’s especially notable about this single is Harmonee—LaToya Bellafant, Cynthia Gross and Carmen Hayes—whose background vocals are stunning. Maybe part of it is the mixing of Grammy Award-winner Eric ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: September 7, 2015

“So Good” Melvin Williams feat. Dottie Peoples From the forthcoming album Where I Started From www.MelvinWilliams.net Melvin Williams of the Williams Brothers quartet joins the fiery Dottie Peoples in a bluesy gospel “take ‘em to church” moment. The Stan Jones-produced “So Good” is a litany of the many ways God has been good to His people throughout the ages, today, and into the future. By mid-recording, the two singers turn downright evangelistic, instructing the listener in urgent, direct tones to mind well their words. Someone who can “rescue Daniel from the lion’s den,” “turn water into wine” and “give eyesight ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: August 31, 2015

“Worthy is the Lamb” Eminence (2015) www.cdbaby.com/cd/eminence2 On its first single, “Worthy is the Lamb,” New York-based gospel ensemble Eminence demonstrates kinship with the vocally aerobic sound of the late O’Landa Draper. Sections of soothing harmony on this majestic praiser transition abruptly to passages of throaty, dramatic angularity, and then back again, in a mashup of gospel and senior choir techniques. The group will garner interest for its demonstrative attack of lyric lines alone. Written by Karl Jackson with musical production by Gary Mayes, “Worthy is the Lamb” is reminiscent of 1990s gospel choirs but is as contemporary as this moment.

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JGM Pick of the Week: August 24, 2015

“You Can’t Give Up” Paul Porter From the Motown Gospel CD F.R.E.E. (2014) www.motowngospel.com Paul Porter lets his quartet roots show in this bluesy gospel song about staying encouraged in the midst of unbearable personal circumstances. Backed by a quartet, Porter sings and eventually shouts lyrics that contain what I call the spiritual ‘but’: sickness might be “getting worse and you don’t know what to do,” or “life for you has been so rough,” but hold on, put your trust in the Lord, and don’t give up–he will see you through. Porter knows whereof he sings. Stricken with a brain aneurysm in ...

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“Thank You, Thank You Jesus” – Chicago Mass Choir

“Thank You, Thank You Jesus” Chicago Mass Choir From the forthcoming New Haven Records CD We Give You Praise (single digital release date: September 11, 2015) www.chicagomasschoir.com The consistently top-notch Chicago Mass Choir provides a stinger of a mid-tempo praise song on “Thank You, Thank You Jesus.” Riffing lyrically on the “How I Got Over” message, the choir, led by the effervescent Evangelist Lemmie Battles, lofts praises to God for all he’s done.  A cancer survivor, Battles has a lot to be thankful for, so when she squalls during the song’s apex, you know it’s heartfelt. “Thank You, Thank You ...

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“God Has Done” – Bishop Kenneth Robinson & Chosen

“God Has Done” Bishop Kenneth Robinson & Chosen From the forthcoming album Churchin’ with Chosen (2015) The group’s name suggests it’s a small choir, but make no mistake: Bishop Kenneth Robinson & Chosen is a gospel quartet, complete with shouts, squalls, and leaps into falsetto. On “God Has Done,” the group instructs the listener to trust God, because he’s already done what he said he would do.  They give the song that energizing drive-tempo quartet rhythm—some might call it a “hip slapping” beat, but who hip slaps anymore? One of the “Singing Bishops” featured on a 2008 Light Records CD ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: August 17, 2015

“I’ll Say Yes to My Lord” Pastor Angela Walker & Divine Revelation From the forthcoming CD Door to the Next Level This spirited Chicago choir goes 100 percent church on “I’ll Say Yes to My Lord,” complete with cascading choral parts, a frenetic pace and even faster vamp, and an interpolation of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus.”  To those who think trad gospel is dead, I say, listen to groups such as Divine Revelation. Organized in 2006 and winners of the 2014 Urban Broadcast Media Voices of Praise Battle Competition, Pastor Angela Walker and Divine Revelation can be heard each Sunday at God’s ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: August 10, 2015

“Grace” Yael Hilton Available on iTunes Fayetteville, North Carolina’s Yael Hilton sings the stuffing out of “Grace,” an unbridled exultation of the power of God’s abundant mercy on her life. Written by Hilton and produced by GRAMMY Award-winner Kevin Bond, “Grace” is the twenty-something’s debut solo single and possibly a glimpse at what she is putting into her forthcoming full-length album. Catch the song’s first vamp and then hold on tightly for the second vamp to hear what this young woman can do.  An amazing talent who deserves major label attention. Hilton is director and minister of music at the Fayetteville ...

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“Something Big (Live)” – Jekalyn Carr

“Something Big (Live)” Jekalyn Carr Lunjeal Music Group (released August 7, 2015) www.malaco.com Eighteen-year-old gospel singing sensation Jekalyn Carr reprises “Something Big,” her single from earlier this year, as a live performance, complete with ambient shouts from her appreciative audience. Carr is energetic and exudes the power of positive thinking in this live performance. Perhaps the single is a teaser for a forthcoming live album, the release of which would make sense, but as a live single, it would have been better to hear her sing something new.

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Mechelle Johnson – “Urgent”

“Urgent” Mechelle Johnson Al-Go-Rhythm (2015) On “Urgent,” Memphis-based gospel singer Mechelle Johnson scats, swoons, whooos, and reads lines with rhythmic staccato accents, performing with more jazz than gospel in her voice. Her well-honed performance approach supports the song’s premise, which encourages listeners to go beyond the church walls and “into the highways and hedges” to deliver souls to God. The melody of this smooth jazz arrangement contains a bluesy twist, though the lyrics are inspirational, as Johnson charges listeners to accept discipleship and “shine for Him” through good works. Have a listen yourself: “Urgent”

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