Singles

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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“Satan, We’re Gonna Tear Your Kingdom Down” – Shirley Caesar

“Satan, We’re Gonna Tear Your Kingdom Down” Shirley Caesar From the Greenleaf Gospel Companion Soundtrack, Vol. 1 www.malaco.com Never mind Shirley Caesar the holiday meme sensation. The mighty traditional gospel singer gets down to what she has done effectively for more than sixty years on “Satan, We’re Gonna Tear Your Kingdom Down.” To the intimidating thrum-thrum of marching warrior feet and penetrating harmonies from the choir, Pastor Shirley declares holy war on the Prince of Darkness. This old church song has never lost its ability to rattle the church rafters. The single comes from the Gospel Companion Soundtrack, Volume 1, ...

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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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“You Were There” – Henry Hall and New Dimension Worshippers

“You Were There” Henry Hall and New Dimension Worshippers Rebel Hill Music “You Were There,” a graceful ode of gratitude to God for His constancy, is a slow burning single by Henry Hall and New Dimension Worshippers.  The choral harmonies are reminiscent of the Hawkins Family, Thomas Whitfield, John P. Kee, and other 1970s/1980s gospel ensembles. Hall’s high tenor expresses both humble gratefulness and vulnerability as he sings about how the Savior “Dried my tear-stained eyes / Held me when I cried.” Henry Hall scored a Newsome Award and a Stellar Award nomination nearly a decade ago for his vocal ...

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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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“Because of Who You Are” – Sounds of Imani

“Because of Who You Are” Sounds of Imani Heaven-Wings Records (release date: October 21, 2016) www.soundsofimani.com Recording as the Sounds of Imani, Gerald and Carol Ervin have released their debut single, “Because of Who You Are,” a tuneful praiser that features the husband-wife team’s fine solo and duet vocalizing. Carol’s soprano is so reminiscent of Stylistics lead singer Russell Thompkins Jr. that this song sounds decidedly Philly, although the Ervins are from Detroit. The single also has an early Hawkins Family feel in its soft R&B tones, light tempo, and breezy ensemble harmonies. This all makes sense when one considers that ...

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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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JGM Pick of the Week: November 7, 2016

“Escaped to Tell” Blanche McAllister-Dykes From the Escaped To Tell Movie Soundtrack www.escapedtotell.com Sung by Blanche McAllister-Dykes, whose vocal vulnerability gives the song the feel of a church testimony, “Escaped to Tell” is the title track of a Christian-themed film by songwriter and author, Nefateri Smalls, who co-wrote the song with Chad Chambers. An alumna of Donald Lawrence & the Tri-City Singers, McAllister-Dykes builds from victim to victorious to advocate through a steadily building passion that is echoed by her background vocalists. By the conclusion, she is shouting praises to God for bringing her through the emotional pain of domestic violence ...

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