Elain Thomas – About That Life: Healing and Restoration, Volume 1

Elain Thomas
About That Life: Healing and Restoration, Volume 1
(release date: June 18, 2019)

By Bob Marovich

Elain Thomas’s About That Life: Healing and Restoration, Volume 1 is a concept album of introspective and ostensibly autobiographical selections.

The songs’ lyrics of praise and worship are not generalities; they hint at Thomas’s gratitude for overcoming real-life tribulations. The relaxed mood, on the other hand, suggests that Thomas is able to step back and reflect on how she got to rather than still working her way through.

References to personal trials and joys are heard most explicitly on “So Much.” Thomas sings that she “was left for dead many years ago” but God saved her. He also blessed her “not once but twice” with two daughters. She gushes her gratitude and declares she will never forget the kindness.

Thomas, a contralto, does her most agile and sassiest singing on “Stop by Here,” a stripped-down quiet storm prayer moment during which she beseeches God for a breakthrough.

The worship song “Ode to My Father” features what sounds like a synthesized hammered dulcimer and echoes of a Synare electronic drum, the kind that was used on 1970s disco hits such as Anita Ward’s “Ring My Bell.” The hammered dulcimer effect reappears from time to time throughout the project to flavor selections with a Middle Eastern ambiance.

“I Speak Life” quotes from Ecclesiastes (“A time to be born, a time to die,” e.g.). For Thomas, the current season is about life. “Secret Faults” reminds the listener to be vigilant, as a bounty of abundant blessings does not erase the capacity to backslide.

“Here He Comes,” featuring Lavell, concludes the collection with a series of acrobatic vocal runs by Thomas on lyrics that quote from Philippians 2:10-11 (“Every knee shall bow, every tongue confess”), and from Mark 13:32 (“Ye know not the hour”). In other words, don’t wait until it’s too late to praise God.

With the exception of background vocalists, the music appears to be generated by keyboard and computer. To my ears, backing the songs with a small jazz combo might have been more impactful, especially given Thomas’s penchant for jazz vocal runs. Live combos can improvise in ways computers cannot. Nevertheless, kudos to Elain Thomas for rendering P&W songs that don’t ignore the personal pain and worry God’s people feel.

Three of Five Stars

Pick: “Stop By Here”

About Bob Marovich

Bob Marovich is a gospel music historian, author, and radio host. Founder of Journal of Gospel Music blog (formally The Black Gospel Blog) and producer of the Gospel Memories Radio Show.