A Story To Tell
Malaco Records (2013)
By Bob Marovich for The Black Gospel Blog
If there’s a choir to give the Mississippi and Chicago Mass Choirs a run for their money, it’s the North Carolina Community Choir.
Formed initially to back the Sensational Nightingales on “Every Promise in the Book is Mine,” and Rev. F.C. Barnes and Darrell Luster on “(God Is God) He Won’t Change,” the group decided to become permanent. Their debut album, A Story To Tell, is a masterful expression of the gospel choral sound.
The album is loaded with traditional-style melodies, lyrics that address daily struggles, round and full choral voices, and heartfelt lead vocalists to drive it all home. There’s more than a pinch of traditional quartet magic sprinkled throughout, too, due largely to the group’s organizer, producer, and one of its songwriters, Ray Braswell Jr., whose resume of quartet production is lengthy and impressive.
Among the top-shelf lead vocalists are Luther Barnes, who fronts the choir on “All of My Help.” Shari Braswell leads the church wrecker “Vengeance is Mine,” reminding that it is not up to us to get even but to let God take care of it. The title track, led by Darrell Luster (who is no longer with the choir), expounds on the “tears of a clown” theme, noting that “the clothes that you wear and the car that you drive/Help you cover up what’s really going on inside.” Brian Foster’s hard-singing lead on the bluesy “I See a Miracle” leaves no doubt as to the power of breakthrough.
The joyous hand-clapper “Whatever You Need” is an ideal example of the gospel singing featured on the album, and reminiscent of a Sunday morning worship service.
A Story to Tell contains so many good gospel songs, it’s hard to pick favorites. Those who once looked forward to the latest releases by the Thompson Community Singers, St. James Choir of Detroit, or the annual Gospel Music Workshop of America Mass Choir album will enjoy this stepback experience.
Five of Five Stars
Picks: “Whatever You Need,” “You’ve Got a Story to Tell.”