(self released, 2016)
By Bob Marovich
Americans might be surprised to learn that there is a vibrant gospel music community in the UK.
Given the way in which the music was introduced there, and when, the UK style—indeed the mode of gospel music throughout Europe and Scandinavia—has more in common with CCM and Andrae Crouch-style jazz-pop gospel than the churchy clap-and-stomp sounds of traditionalism. At the same time, it stands in refreshing contemporary contrast to the staid hymns of the Anglican Church.
Case in point is Eloho Efemuai, better known simply as Eloho. The Nigerian-born worship leader living in Aberdeen, Scotland, has released her second full-length album, Unrestrained. Like her debut Arise, Unrestrained showcases Eloho’s cheerful, ever optimistic, breezy, and melodic praise music, at turns gentle and muscular.
Eloho is backed throughout by a strong choir that does just as much of the song lifting as she. The choir sometimes delivers elements of that wonderful African close harmony tradition that wash over the listener like waves of sonic warmth. Nowhere is this more prominent than in the album’s arrangement of the church chestnut, “Holy Holy Holy.”
A number of artists cameo on Unrestrained. Teenaged winner of NEX Factor, Anna Barton, contributes her lovely tones on “Once Again.” Fellow Nigerian and the album’s producer, Akinwunmi Oluniyi “Florocka” Akiremi, assists handsomely on vocals for “He’ll Do It Again,” a song of hope and encouragement that has a pop-rock flavor. Pop-rock influences are also evident on “Fearless,” Eloho’s anthem to immovability in the face of evil, while “Jesus We Loves You” is pure CCM with a Scottish brogue.
The infectious closer, “Praise Jam,” featuring Sunkey, blends the polyrhythms of Afro-pop with P&W lyrics. A full album of Nigerian-influenced Afro-pop gospel from Eloho would be very interesting.
Three of Five Stars
Picks: “He’ll Do It Again,” “Jesus We Love You.”