Instrument of Praise
By Bob Marovich
Instrument of Praise by Chicago’s Tammy Smith sandwiches slices of traditional singing between healthy helpings of contemporary gospel with a smooth jazz patina.
Nowhere is this combination more apparent than on the two part “The Blood.” Smith begins by offering Andrae Crouch’s classic “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power” in a traditional vein, consistent with the original, then switches to a modern interpretation on the second part.
As a singer, Smith possesses a light soprano that becomes even more delicate on the top notes. Her style suits the album’s majority of the album’s material well, as the songs have perky melodies and optimistic lyrics. These songs, however, are spiritual entertainment when compared to the album’s traditional fare. Smith shines brightest on the old standard and gospel singer’s demonstration piece, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” Accompanied by piano and recorded live, Smith lets her Chicago roots show with every dramatic turn of phrase, pause for emphasis, and melismatic run. Had she shouted at the end, several in the congregation would have required smelling salts.
“He’s Sweet I Know” is another strong traditional reading by Smith, which suggests that if she recorded an entire album of church classics, it would be a great contribution to gospel music. Nevertheless, Instrument of Praise tilts toward today’s jazz-inflected sound, with Smith offering particularly confident vocals on “We’ve Come to Praise Him” and “Don’t Worry.”
A former lead vocalist for the Chicago Mass Choir, which has produced many fine soloists over the years, Tammy Smith received the 2014 Rhythm of Gospel Award for Best Performance by a Praise & Worship Artist.
Three of Five Stars
Pick: “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”