by Bob Marovich, The Black Gospel Blog
More than a decade ago, Kenny Lewis was content to be a member of Appointed by God, a Chicago-based male group affiliated with Stellar Award-winning producer Daniel Weatherspoon. But God had other plans for him.
“I had no desire to have a group or choir,” explained Kenny Lewis. “But God laid it out for me. He sent people my way and gave me direction on how to put a group together.”
Kenny Lewis & One Voice was born in January 1999, and its debut CD, The Bridge, was released on Marxan Records in 2002. Now, nearly eleven years to the month of its founding, the choir has released its newest CD, The Mission. It is a project that captures the group’s vocal power and muscular stage presence.
The “Pentecostal born and bred” Lewis hails from Chicago’s south side. He has been in music ministry for years, teaching choirs and praise teams. “Music was my life from a young age,” he said. “My mom – God rest her soul, she’s been gone two years now – there were ten siblings in her family, and everyone in the family sang. And they all had children, and their children had children. Everybody sang.”
He adds, “I also grew up very strict. We couldn’t listen to any other kind of music but gospel. I think we are freer now; however, I thank God for my upbringing. The strictness saved my life.”
The sound of Kenny Lewis & One Voice is large and athletic. Lewis moves up and down the stage like a soldier in boot camp. Lewis laughs: “I was energetic even at a young age.”
At the same time, he points out, “Our music isn’t geared to one group of listeners. The sound has different variations, depending on whether or not it’s a high-energy song. I also love worship music. I love resting and bathing in the presence of God. We can bring it all the way down at times and leave it on the floor. We have something for everyone.”
Lewis counts among his earliest musical influences Thomas Whitfield & Company, Andrae Crouch and Walter and Edwin Hawkins. He also enjoys the Clark Sisters and Daryl Coley. “I like the older groups. They are kind of traditional but they also have a variety of music. And the lyrics have substance.”
Lyrics are important to Lewis, who began writing songs as an adolescent. “God gives me songs even when I’m driving. He’ll just birth a song and I keep a tape recorder in the car so I won’t forget it. He has given me songs of personal experience, songs you can grasp onto. You don’t need to be a scholar to understand what the message is.”
Besides writing for his own group, Lewis has composed for artists such as Adrian B. King & Reverence, Mark Hubbard & United Voices for Christ, Albertina Walker, and Ricky Dillard & New G. About 85 percent of the songs on The Mission come from Lewis’s pen.
“I believe that in this time, God has called me to be an encourager. So often we’re tearing each other down – you shouldn’t do this or you shouldn’t do that – but you need somebody to let you know that you can make it, that there is an exit sign out of your trials and tribulations.”
The current single from The Mission, “I Am,” is making noise on XM and radio stations around the country. “The song simply means He’s everything,” Lewis explained. “He’s your protector, your promoter, your ruler. And when we’re going through things, we sometimes forget how powerful God really is.”
The next single from the album is likely to be “Victory,” featuring powerhouse vocalist Kim McFarland. The equally fiery Min. Tim White leads “Give Thanks,” what Lewis calls “an old school churchy type of song.”
The past few months have been busy for Kenny Lewis & One Voice, and there are no signs of slowing down any time soon.
“I don’t care how big of an artist you are, people don’t have to call you to do anything,” Lewis commented. “We’ve been blessed to be asked to appear at Chicago’s Gospel Fest. And we’re on the road a lot. But that has been my prayer, that God will allow us to minister to people that I don’t know, that maybe can barely speak my language, but understand that there is hope through Jesus Christ.”
He added, “I knew I would minister in music. I just didn’t know it would be on the level God has taken me to.”
For more information, go to: www.myspace.com/kennylewisonevoice.