Reviews

Camille Nelson – Sacred Lullabies

Camille Nelson Sacred Lullabies Heart Dance Records (release date: August 23, 2019) www.camillenelson.com By Bob Marovich Religious music comes in many shapes and sizes. It can be thunderous or austere, passionate or quiescent, joyful or somber. Regardless, for sacred music to be effective, it must, as Father of Gospel Music Thomas A. Dorsey once said, “prick the heart.” Sacred Lullabies, Utah musician Camille Nelson’s new collection of acoustic music, pricks the heart by drawing on folk, CCM, country, and Celtic influences. The album is as comforting as a loving embrace. In keeping with the title’s premise, many tracks are soothing ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: August 13, 2019

“Don’t Judge Me” Kierra Sheard feat. Missy Elliott Karew Entertainment / RCA Inspiration (release date: August 9, 2019) By Bob Marovich The latest gospel-R&B mashup, “Don’t Judge Me,” teams Grammy-nominated and Stellar Award-winning Kierra Sheard of Detroit’s legendary Clark-Moss dynasty with Missy Elliott, iconic hip hop artist and soon-to-be MTV Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Awardee. In a tone of humility laced with media fatigue, Sheard sings “I just ran through the fire; please don’t judge me.” Though directly in response to those who put Sheard’s every move under a microscope, the song also serves as a rejoinder to haters everywhere ...

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Zak Williams & 1/Akord – The Next Chapter

Zak Williams & 1/Akord The Next Chapter Enon Music Group (release date: July 12, 2019) By Bob Marovich While the name Zak Williams & 1/Akord sounds like it might be a male-led gospel group, the group is actually a small choir. And on the group’s latest offering, The Next Chapter, the ensemble sings with the full-throated and thunderous sonority of a choir twice its size. The album, presented by Dr. Alyn E. Waller, Pastor of Philadelphia’s Enon Tabernacle Church and produced by Zak Williams, features songs written by a variety of songwriters, including Williams himself. “Unpredictable God” is the radio-friendly ...

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Reverend Lawrence Thomison – Going to Church

Reverend Lawrence Thomison Going to Church Dherico Music (release date: May 26, 2019) www.revlawrencethomison.com By Bob Marovich Going to Church, the latest release by the Reverend Lawrence Thomison, lives up to its billing. Produced by Derrick Lee for Dherico Music, Going to Church is an album of songs rendered in an older style by the full-throated Cedric Sesley & Out 4 Souls choir and soloist Thomison, who demonstrates that he can shout and squall like a quartet singer-turned-Baptist preacher. Despite the album’s old-school modality, the rhythm section, and especially Kenny Jackson’s thumping bass, keeps the musical body firmly fixed in ...

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VaShawn Mitchell – Elements

VaShawn Mitchell Elements Fair Trade / Columbia (release date: August 9, 2019) www.vashawnmitchell.com By Bob Marovich More than other styles of sacred music, Praise and Worship tends to focus on the elements. For example, the music creates an “atmosphere” for worship, while song lyrics use wind, water, and fire as metaphors for the presence, or anticipated presence, of the Holy Ghost and the “showering” of blessings. Nowhere is this more evident than on worship leader VaShawn Mitchell’s new album, Elements. The title of his first album in three years telegraphs the use of the earth’s substances to describe the descent ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: August 5, 2019

“I’ll Be Alright” Larry Hill feat. Ervin “Bigman” Williams RonKay Music Group (release date: May 1, 2019) www.ronkaymusic.com By Bob Marovich Though “I’ll Be Alright” is ostensibly a solo outing for Philadelphia gospel singer Larry Hill, it thrums with the sound of good old fashioned southern soul quartet. One reason is the presence of quartet guitar wizard Ervin “Bigman” Williams, who offers up a quick, whimsical lick for an intro and proceeds to weave guitar riffs in and out of the singing and chugging rhythm section. Then there’s the background harmonies and the shouting vamp that goes on for a ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: July 29, 2019

“While I Wait” Shara J Anjelica Records (release date: February 26, 2019) https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/sharaj By Bob Marovich While the hypnotically flowing beat of “While I Wait” provides an inkling of the single’s Bahamian roots, it’s delivered with such American Pentecostal passion by Shara J that most would never know of its island origins. A worship leader in her native Bahamas, Shara J gives “While I Wait” the heart-pouring reading that the plaintive ballad requires. “You said I could come boldly before your throne of grace,” she sings, “but my heart is broken and I don’t have the strength.” It’s easy to ...

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Kurt Carr – Bless Somebody Else

Kurt CarrBless Somebody ElseRCA Inspiration (release date: July 19, 2019)www.rcainspiration.com By Bob Marovich In what may well be the most heartrending introduction you will hear on a gospel album this year, Praise & Worship pioneer Kurt Carr uses the opening moments of his new CD, Bless Somebody Else, to relate the final moments he spent at the deathbed of gospel great Andrae Crouch. Squeezing Carr’s hand, Crouch, who in his early days encountered no small amount of criticism for contemporizing church music, entreats his protégé to always lift the name of Jesus in his songs. From there, Carr and the ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: July 16, 2019

“Praise Belongs to You” Jason Clayborn & the Atmosphere Changers Tyscot Records www.tyscot.com By Bob Marovich “Praise Belongs to You,” co-written by Grammy Award-nominated gospel songwriter Jason Clayborn, author of such hits as Hezekiah Walker’s “Better” and Ricky Dillard’s “I Survived It,” is Clayborn’s debut single as an artist for Tyscot Records. Assisted by his small choir, the Atmosphere Changers, Clayborn offers a radio-ready praise anthem aided by full-bodied production, dramatic key changes, and lead vocal assists from Isaiah Freeman and Matt Austin. The Atmosphere Changers incrementally build the song’s tension with passionate and full-throated harmonies until the only place ...

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“After All These Years” – Freddi Rene

“After All These Years” Freddi Rene From the CD Guide Me www.freddirene.com By Bob Marovich On its surface, “After All These Years,” written by Carl Phillips, Gabriel Young, and producer Gregory G. Pearson, sounds like a conventional love song. But in the song’s first few seconds, Freddi Rene asserts that the source of her love is the Lord. The breezy contemporary single contains hints of Freddi’s hometown of Detroit in its Whitfield-esque jazz chord progressions and complex melody. In fact, if you slowed it down, “After All These Years” sounds like something the Clark Sisters would sing. Freddi Rene has ...

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