Bless Somebody Else
RCA Inspiration (release date: July 19, 2019)
By Bob Marovich
In what may well be the most heartrending introduction you will hear on a gospel album this year, Praise & Worship pioneer Kurt Carr uses the opening moments of his new CD, Bless Somebody Else, to relate the final moments he spent at the deathbed of gospel great Andrae Crouch.
Squeezing Carr’s hand, Crouch, who in his early days encountered no small amount of criticism for contemporizing church music, entreats his protégé to always lift the name of Jesus in his songs.
From there, Carr and the Kurt Carr Singers launch into a medley of tried-and-true hymns. In a musical nod to Crouch’s genre-changing innovation, the ensemble give each hymn ample doses of classical and jazz.
The album’s songs forsake the tried-and-true techniques of conventional P&W for more creative melodies, sunnier arrangements, and lyrics that don’t just rehash church aphorisms reflexively but communicate a deep and genuine heart for God’s people.
The featured soloists are remarkable, such as the fiery Brittany Holmes and Denise Tichenor on the buoyant “I’ll Make Sure You’re Lifted Up.” Kurt Carr Singer Timiney Figueroa does a marvelous job on the dramatic “Say All is Well,” but the album’s finest moment is the testimonial “Grace Brought Me Back.” It is written for and sung passionately by Le’Andria Johnson, who ends her solo with a churchy version of “Amazing Grace.” Veteran soprano Lorraine Stancil transitions effortlessly into a beautiful “Love Lifted Me” like the church warrior she is.
An album single, “Blessing after Blessing,” is representative of Carr’s poignant yet powerful songwriting, as is the lovely praise hymn “I Owe You Praise,” during which Carr reiterates his promise to Crouch that “I’ll never forget you, Jesus.” Though “Blessing” is popular now, “Praise” is poised to last well beyond the lifespan of the CD.
The tempo-shifting “With Thanksgiving” offers churches a song for U. S. and Canadian churches to sing on their Thanksgiving Days, though as Carr exhorts during the selection: “Every day is Thanksgiving Day!” Figueroa and fellow Kurt Carr Singer Nakitta Clegg-Foxx dig down deep in their solar plexus to shout in a vocal tribute to the late Joe Ligon of the Mighty Clouds of Joy. The majestic closer “God Bless You Forever” is an apt recessional for churches.
On what Carr calls the gospel version of “We are the World,” an impressive array of top artists come together on “Bless Somebody Else.” The title track, a moving paean to paying it forward, is dedicated in memory of Carr’s longstanding ministry partner, Dorothy King. Carr introduces each guest artist—from Fred Hammond to Yolanda Adams—as he or she steps forward to lend a hand by singing about lending a hand.
Lest one think the album is all work and no play, Carr takes a moment with “I Got Back Up” to make merry about his recent tumble off the stage during a concert in Seattle. Featuring Clegg-Foxx and B. Slade, the song turns “lemons into lemonade” but, more importantly, it turns a trial into a teaching moment with a sanctified conclusion.
“I Never Lost My Praise,” which Carr wrote originally for Tramaine Hawkins, is reprised here by Tiya Askia and Travis Taylor, the 2018 Kurt Carr Millennial Search winners. Another nod to Millennials is a new arrangement of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” It remains true to the original while injecting contemporary flourishes designed to appeal to a younger audience.
Although he may not get the celebrity-style props of his A-list colleagues, Kurt Carr is without a doubt one of the most important and influential figures in gospel music today. Bless Somebody Else, which ought to be in the running for best gospel album of the year, is proof.
Five of Five Stars
Picks: “Grace Brought Me Back,” “I Owe You Praise,” “Bless Somebody Else”