Bonita Burney Simmons
Bursimslow Music (release date: August 6, 2016)
By Bob Marovich
Bonita Burney Simmons has been compared to Tramaine Hawkins, but I hear more than a touch of Gladys Knight in her voice on her most recent album, This Time.
Especially on the opening track, the mid-tempo “God’s People Arise.” Simmons possesses a creamy voice that only moves into evangelist territory when the spirit hits her, as on “I Must Tell Jesus.” This track finds her singing at her most inspired as she shares how she almost gave up. When she became too tired to fight, “Jesus fixed it.”
While most of the songs on This Time flow in an R&B groove as comfortable as walking shoes, “I’ll Be a Witness” and “Step Back” are old school drive-tempo selections. On the latter, Simmons runs through a litany of Bible stories to drive home her point.
She gives a funky Hawkins-style underpinning to a legitimate oldie, “Old Rugged Cross.” Its unconventional arrangement could well be the manifestation of her musical mission statement: a blend of old- and new-school. As she sings on “Use 2 Be,” the simpler days were better days, but change is inevitable and not all change is bad.
“Breakthrough” is the album’s single and for good reason: Simmons delivers it like a traditional gospel singer. Otherwise, This Time is fairly straight-ahead Christian popular music. I’d love to hear Bonita Burney Simmons do a few gospel classics with only piano and organ as accompaniment to show off her true vocal mettle.
Three of Five Stars
Picks: “I Must Tell Jesus,” “Breakthrough”