A Worshipper’s Heart
eOne Music (release date: April 15, 2016)
By Bob Marovich
Todd Dulaney is among the new-ish crop of male gospel tenors who croon rather than shout their praises aloft. His latest album, A Worshipper’s Heart, is his first live project and as good a demonstration as any of his growing potential as a singer and songwriter of serious note.
The album opens with a congratulatory introduction from Dulaney’s former pastor, Smokie Norful, who helped launch the singer’s career when Dulaney, then a ballplayer with the New York Mets, joined Norful’s Victory Cathedral.
From there, A Worshipper’s Heart lets loose a series of aerobic if somewhat conventional rhythm-and-praise selections with uncomplicated melodies, repetitive lyrics, and plenty of vocal interaction between Dulaney and his background vocalists.
“The Anthem,” the album’s current single, signals a tempering of the live energy, but in a good way. The mood becomes less dramaturgical and more introspective. By “Greater,” which features a lovely duet between Dulaney and Caprisha Cartwright, the album becomes far more interesting; the lyrics, the melodies, and the arrangements are more thoughtful and thought-provoking.
One, “Unchurched,” is the album’s most effective selection. Written by Dulaney, “Unchurched” is the internal monologue of a flawed protagonist who enters a church, presumably for the first time, to change his life, but instead encounters silent but palpable judgment from the church folk about the style of his clothes, his shoes (“I don’t have a pair of church shoes”), and his street persona. The irony of getting a cold shoulder in the house of God is not lost on the hero, and he wonders if he’s made the right choice in seeking help. Gospel music can use more songs with the feeling and meaning of “Unchurched.”
Continuing on, “Higher” offers solid singing and musicianship, and no less than seven vocalists offer their own interpretation of “Victory Belongs to Jesus” during the latter’s reprise. “Worship You Forever” demonstrates a panoply of emotions as it passes through the initial cut and into two extensions where Dulaney, his musicians, background vocalists, and the audience improvise lyrically and melodically on the main motive.
A Worshipper’s Heart is Todd Dulaney’s strongest effort to date.
Four of Five Stars
Picks: “Greater,” “Unchurched.”
Read JGM’s interview of Todd Dulaney from 2013.