Rev. Luther Barnes and the
Restoration Worship Center Choir
The Favor of God
Shanachie Entertainment (release date: September 9, 2016)
By Bob Marovich
Decades ago, Luther Barnes breathed the Red Budd Gospel Choir into life at the church his father, the late Reverend F. C. Barnes, founded in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.
Today, Luther has a new choir, a new church, and has followed his father’s footsteps into the ministry: he is now the Reverend Luther Barnes. As Founder and Pastor of Restoration Worship Center in Rocky Mount, Barnes proudly showcases the singing of his church choir on The Favor of God.
The Restoration Worship Center Choir may be relatively new but it is an accomplished ensemble, due in no small part to the fact that many of the singers are Red Budd Gospel Choir alumni. The choir’s harmonies wash over the listener with the same briskness as do the album’s string section, courtesy of the Nashville String Machine.
As with Red Budd albums, this one is a family affair. Deborah Barnes, Luther’s cousin and longtime Red Budd vocalist, is present on the album. Several singers and musicians with the Barnes surname are acknowledged in the liner notes.
But what The Favor of God does best is showcase Luther Barnes’s skill as a songwriter. Three selections in particular, “Blessed Be the Name of the Lord,” “Jesus is a Friend to Me” (this one belongs in a hymnbook), and the current single, “God’s Grace,” which Barnes co-wrote with the album’s co-producer Derrick Lamont Adams, are religious songs that mix the breathtaking beauty of CCM melodies with the deep penetrating emotion at the root of gospel. The lyrics remain true to the time-worn quartet practice of acknowledging life’s many challenges and recognizing that God is the solution to them all. No new age theology here, just a reiteration of the wooden church lessons that got generations over.
Barnes told JGM in a recent interview that he “wrote a lot of cryin’ songs in past years, and so I wanted this album to be uplifting, but also soul touching, to say something in the songs.” Mission accomplished: while the lyrics are indeed encouraging and uplifting, there’s no denying that the cry Barnes has in his voice lends a heartwarming quality to each song, comfort food for the soul.
Ballads aside, the “Old Saints Praise” is a joyous medley of church-tested congregational songs and gospels, such as “I’m a Soldier” and “Sweet Home,” delivered by a team of vocalists, including Luther and his daughter, Bonita Greene. “Oh, I like this kind of singing,” Luther declares, as the vocalists and choir participate in antiphonal pleasure. Gospel enthusiasts who remember the Rev. F. C. Barnes’s spirited duets with the Reverend Janice Brown will find this selection especially appealing.
The Favor of God is Barnes’s first album for veteran music executive D. A. Johnson’s SRT Productions, with important technical assistance from the multi-talented Ray Braswell. Good gospel singing with heartfelt lyrics and Luther Barnes’ smooth but penetrating vocals make this a solid release.
Four of Five Stars
Picks: “God’s Grace,” “Blessed Be the Name of the Lord,” “Jesus is a Friend to Me.”