Singer-songwriter Kassandra McGhee of Forest Park, Illinois, a suburb west of Chicago, has sung background or shared the stage with such notable contemporary gospel and praise and worship artists such as Edwin Hawkins, Phil Tarver and Vanessa Dukes of the Brown Sisters.
Not surprisingly, given McGhee’s performance experience and service as a praise and worship leader, her self-produced debut CD Completely is an assemblage of P&W songs she composed. Her sweet, breathy soprano reminds me of Deniece Williams, who started singing gospel as a member of the COGIC church in Gary, Indiana before moving into the pop scene. During “Song of Moses,” a track from her debut album, McGhee even hits some Williams-style off-the-stave high notes.
McGhee has an astute ear for melody and, like John Denver, favors a high tessitura in her songs. But she is more vocally flexible than such a tessitura would suggest, since the lower-toned sopranos who handle the contrapuntal background vocals appear to be McGhee multi-tracked.
The best compositions on Completely are the melodic P&W ballads, particularly the title track and “Whole in You,” though the mid-tempo “Sunshine From Here” has an appealing repetition.
“You’ve Been Right There,” with Leon Dubose accompanying on piano, is the album’s attention-getter and crown jewel. As is often the case in gospel, whether contemporary or traditional, less is more. Such minimal and flexible accompaniment lets a soloist feel her way emotionally through a song, and that is what McGhee does here. A follow-up album where McGhee sings more of her songs with only piano or organ and bass as accompaniment would showcase her music the best.
Overall, Completely is a fine debut and introduces a promising new P&W songwriter.
Three of Five Stars
gPod Picks: “You’ve Been Right There,” “Completely.”
Reviewed by Bob Marovich for The Black Gospel Blog.