In some ways, it was like attending a gospel music hall of fame event wrapped inside a live recording session.
The Clark Sisters were seated in the front row. Richard Smallwood sat behind them. Rows of gospel announcers, gospel music producers, and popular singers were to their left and right.
Chicago’s House of Hope was filled with expectation as Karen Clark Sheard, with Donald Lawrence and Company as the choir, began recording Destined to Win, her sixth solo album and second for her label, Karew Records.
That was September 9, 2013.
Since then, the album’s contemplative debut single, “Sunday AM,” earned a Grammy nod. The follow up single, “My Words Have Power,” is making noise on gospel radio.
Today, on New Release Friday, the full product of that live recording, Destined to Win, is available.
“Chicago is like home to us,” Karen Clark Sheard told the Journal of Gospel Music. “My daughter [Kierra Sheard] had her live recording there. She got so much support from Chicago, and the reception I received that night at my recording was absolutely amazing. It made my whole year!”
In addition to backing Sheard, Chicago’s Donald Lawrence and Daniel Weatherspoon were co-producers; Sheard’s son, J. Drew II, produced “My God is Big.” The smooth, neo-classicism of Donald Lawrence and Company provided an ideal counterpoint to Sheard’s church-honed vocal flourishes.
“Donald’s like family to me,” Sheard said. “I worked with him on my very first solo CD. And if something works, you keep it going. I’ve tried other producers, and they’ve done well, but Donald, we just fit right in together. He’s a perfectionist. I will forever work with Donald because he has a great reputation and is a man of integrity.”
The most memorable part of the live recording for Sheard came out of a Lawrence recommendation for a Clark Sisters reunion of sorts. “I called my sisters [the Clark Sisters] up to sing ‘Where Jesus Is.’ I was hesitant to do this at first, because my sisters had not rehearsed the song with me. But Donald said, ‘Look, you all are known for being spontaneous with your music. That’s what people love about you, so make it happen tonight!’ It is what our mother instilled in us, and because Donald knows us well, he gave me the confidence that it would be okay.”
“Where Jesus Is,” a three-part medley featuring the Clark Sisters, Kierra Sheard, and Kim McFarland, are bonus tracks available only on the deluxe edition of Destined to Win, sold exclusively at Walmart.
Sheard’s mother, choir directress and Church of God in Christ Music Director, the late Dr. Mattie Moss Clark, was never far from her daughter’s thoughts that evening.
“She was known as ‘Dr. Mattie Moss, the Boss!’ Sheard said. “She didn’t play with gospel music. She could get out of people a gift that they didn’t even know they had. From what you wear on stage to what you say on stage, to how you deliver it—all of that I give credit to Dr. Mattie Moss Clark. People do not know that she was one of the first black females in gospel music to receive three gold records. But she was also like a mother to everyone. She embraced everyone as if they were her very own. She was a role model for where I want to be today.”
Sheard’s only regret was that her mother was not physically present at the recording session [Mattie Moss Clark died in 1994]. “I would have wanted her to see all of what she instilled in me,” Sheard said, “the greatness she put in me, along with God, and to see the love and support we got.”
Nevertheless, Sheard had a sizable cheering section, which included her husband, Karew Records president and church leader Bishop J. Drew Sheard; her gospel singing daughter Kierra; and other family members.
Karen Clark Sheard wants listeners of Destined to Win to “be impacted and empowered, be nourished” by the music.
“I want the music to bless them so they have a life-changing experience. It’s not about what you can do with your voice, the acrobatics and all that, but about the message. My prayer is that whatever situation they are encountering, the music will bring them spiritual nourishment, healing, and deliverance. I believe that’s what music can do.”
For more information, visit www.karewrecords.com.