Reviews

The Best is Yet to Come – James C. Birdsong Jr.

The Best is Yet to Come: A Testimony of One Young Man’s Redemption. By James C. Birdsong Jr. T & J Publishers, 2017. 362pp. (softcover). ISBN 978-0-9994121-7-6 By Bob Marovich Too often, memoirs written by members of famous families paint a rosy portrait of their lives. Not so in James C. Birdsong Jr.’s earnest The Best is Yet to Come. He is unashamed to talk about the travails he and his family have endured. Indeed, he hopes his tale will help inspire others struggling under similar circumstances. James comes from the Birdsong family that has provided the world such luminaries ...

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“Just One Plague” – Esther Igbekele JP

“Just One Plague” Esther Igbekele JP By Bob Marovich To my knowledge, Nigerian gospel singer Esther Igbekele is the first music minister to release a song about COVID-19. Set to a buoyant West African rhythm, “Just One Plague” is a folk ballad that chronicles the impact Coronavirus has had on the world. Schools are closed. Businesses are closed. Sports are postponed. Economies are stalled. Governments are humbled. People need to stay a meter apart. Most astonishingly, she points out, the virus has also forced calm in the midst of international violence and political unrest. Ultimately, however, Igbekele commands the virus ...

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Isaac Carree – No Risk No Reward

Isaac Carree No Risk No Reward Shanachie Entertainment Group (release date: March 20, 2020) www.shanachie.com By Bob Marovich Isaac Carree has bestowed upon his first solo album in seven years a very accurate title. And in so doing, he has scored his best solo recording to date. No Risk No Reward finds Carree, former member of the genre-bending Men of Standard, pushing the boundaries of what constitutes a gospel album. In fact, the CD is two albums in one. The first part comprises an extended quiet storm expression of love to Carree’s earthly love, wife Dietra. As with Kim Burrell’s ...

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We Are Heirs – Awaken Me (EP)

We Are Heirs Awaken Me (EP) (release date: January 22, 2020) https://weareheirsmusic.com/ By Bob Marovich Not to be confused with the Irish group We Are Messengers, We Are Heirs is comprised of American songwriter Eric Defend and vocalist Ben Bylsma. Nevertheless, the two Christian pop groups share a musical foundation of dramatic rock with electro-symphonic overtones. We Are Heirs demonstrates its Coldplay-meets-Hillsong United vibe on an earnest three-track EP titled Awaken Me. Featuring a liquidy electronic backdrop fronted by a persistent piano riff, the title track is a melodic prayer of thanksgiving for being rescued from a metaphoric sleep and ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: March 9, 2020

“Keep Holding On” Denita Gibbs Intersound / distributed by IndieBlu Music (release date: October 19, 2018) www.denitagibbs.com By Bob Marovich Denita Gibbs of Birmingham, Alabama, entered the national consciousness in 2013 with her five-star sophomore release, Without You. She’s back with “Keep Holding On,” a finger-popping single distinguished by a husky chromatic riff on electric guitar. In a confident, convincing, pop-inflected voice, Gibbs instructs that God will see you through the dark times. Though the single is more than a year old, Gibbs still promotes it in her appearances. A member of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Inc., a ...

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“Unbelief” – Stephen King

“Unbelief” Stephen King From the CD No Secrets (release date: April 28, 2018) By Bob Marovich Not the best-selling author of horror and suspense novels, this Stephen King is a Christian rap artist from Battle Creek, Michigan, who now calls New Orleans home. “Unbelief” is from King’s debut album, 2018’s No Secrets. It’s an anguished prayer for divine assistance during a time of supreme doubt. By the end, he turns the moral of faith into a message of hope for those still trapped in anguish. If you listen hard, you will hear a recurring sample from B. B. King’s classic ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: March 2, 2020

“Patiently Praising” Fred Jerkins feat. Lowell Pye From Fred Jerkins Presents: A Project of Healing DarkChild Gospel (album release date: September 28, 2018) By Bob Marovich Men of Standard founder Lowell Pye injects the smooth soulful vocal style of his former group in the current single, “Patiently Praising.” Turning to the wisdom of Psalm 34 after receiving unsettling news, Pye commits to being patient, keeping the faith, praising the Lord, and offering thanksgiving for each new day. And as many survivors know, an optimistic attitude can indeed help the healing process. “Patiently Praising” comes from Fred Jerkins’s multi-artist A Project ...

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Nikki “D” & the Browns – The Divine Treatment (EP)

Nikki “D” & the Browns The Divine Treatment EP Independent (release date: January 2020) By Bob Marovich Outside of the Campbell Brothers, it seems as if sacred steel music has been relegated to historic reissues. But lap steel is audible on The Divine Treatment, a new EP by Nikki “D” & the Browns of Toledo, Ohio. A member of Soul City House of God International in Toledo, which split from the Church of the Living God, Jewell Dominion—the denominational home of sacred steel—Nicole “Nikki” Brown has been playing steel guitar since age nine. She, her three sisters, and a niece, ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: February 24, 2020

“Big” Pastor Mike Jr. Blacksmoke Music Worldwide/Rock City Media Group (release date: May 10, 2019) By Bob Marovich In a time when Kanye West is dominating Billboard‘s Top Gospel Singles and Albums charts, whatever space is left is occupied by legacy artists like Kirk Franklin and Tamela Mann. There’s scant room for new artists. Nevertheless, Pastor Mike Jr. has broken through onto the charts with “Big” and his album Free. As sonically enormous as its subject, “Big” evokes the work of James Fortune & FIYA in its use of spoken calls to sung choral responses, outsized production, and zealous optimism. ...

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Reverend John Lee Hooker Jr. – Testify

Reverend John Lee Hooker Jr. Testify Steppin’ Stone Records (release date: February 14, 2020) By Bob Marovich “From the blues to the good news,” declares the Reverend John Lee Hooker Jr.’s website, though listening to his new album, Testify, blues has not left the building entirely. It’s just backing up lyrics of encouragement and warning instead of “Extramarital Affair” and “Pay the Rent.” Son of the legendary bluesman John Lee “Boogie Man” Hooker, Reverend John Lee Jr. received Grammy nominations for his blues albums. But a life of imprisonment, addiction, and having been being shot and stabbed forced him to ...

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