Prayer Tools, Vol. 1 (released November 11, 2014)
By Bob Marovich
With its latest release, Prayer Tools, Vol. 1, foreverJONES may well have heralded a new subgenre of black sacred music: ambient inspirational.
It is the Shreveport, Louisiana-based family band’s first project after departing EMI Gospel and first on its own label. The more than 150 minute-long project, only available digitally at the moment, contains seven individual song compositions and a bonus track, with additional instrumental versions of four selections.
Experimental in sound and structure, Prayer Tools, Vol. 1 is designed to help worshipers enter into an ongoing dialogue with God. All music packaging conventions are set aside, starting with the soulful, hypnotic, and ultimately finger-popping “Changed for a Lifetime,” which runs for nearly 29 minutes. A backdrop featuring a cacophony of voices raised in ecstatic praise—striking in its exoticism—enters the selection in medias res. Topping “Changed” in size at 32 minutes, the bonus track, “The Chain Will Not Be Broken,” is mostly an instrumental.
“Chain,” the fifteen-minute “Fall in Love,” and the gorgeous instrumental “7 Minute Prayer,” are prime examples of ambient inspirational: new age arrangements containing elements of P&W, CCM, and gospel. These atmospheric selections are standalone listening experiences in the same way that some Indian music is used to stimulate worship and meditation.
The album also includes Dominique “Doe” Jones’s “Access.” Her debut single as a soloist is a direct appeal for connection with God, and confirms her potential as the newest significant all-around talent in gospel music. Doe also reprises the family’s breakout hit, “He Wants It All.”
The album’s pinnacle moment turns out to be its briefest. Written by Judah Jones and sung by sister D’jeniele (Jones) Hooten with piano and organ as stark accompaniment, “Can You Feel His Glory” is an extraordinary hymn, reminiscent of the work of Andrae Crouch and Richard Smallwood. It is one of the best single recordings of the year.
Unlike any gospel album you have heard, Prayer Tools, Vol. 1 is a soundtrack to personal worship offered by an unfettered foreverJONES.
Four of Five Stars
Pick: “Can You Feel His Glory,” “Access.”