Reviews

Koryn Hawthorne – Unstoppable

Koryn Hawthorne Unstoppable RCA Inspiration (release date: July 13, 2018) www.rcainspiration.com By Bob Marovich Hearing just the first few bluesy bars of the Jimi Hendrix-like fuzz guitar that open Koryn Hawthorne’s “Warriors,” the opening track on her full-length solo album, Unstoppable, you know you are in for a sonic adventure. Hawthorne combines the relentless vocal energy of Lady Gaga and the power praise of Cheryl Fortune with the out-of-the-box innovation of Royce Lovett. Producer Warryn Campbell, no stranger to pop-infused gospel, helps facilitate this mélange of sound, while the lyrics remain grounded in praise, worship, and inspiration. Those who watched Hawthorne rise ...

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The Sons of the Soul Revivers: Live! Rancho Nicasio

The Sons of the Soul Revivers Live! Rancho Nicasio Little Village Foundation www.littlevillagefoundation.org By Bob Marovich The Sons of the Soul Revivers are on a quest to achieve the kind of widespread visibility that the Blind Boys of Alabama and the Fairfield Four have enjoyed for the past three decades. Based on the sound of their new album, Live! Rancho Nicasio, the guys are definitely on the right track. Recorded during two sold out shows at the Rancho Nicasio, a roadhouse in Marin County, California, that specializes in presenting roots music, the album was produced by the Little Village Foundation, a ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: July 2, 2018

“Chainbreaker” Angela “Missy” Billups E’Mazin Entertainment (release date: May 15, 2018) Available digitally By Bob Marovich New York-based singer Angela “Missy” Billups is known for both traditional church wreckers and rhythmic praise ballads. Her latest single, “Chainbreaker,” is right in the middle in terms of tempo, while the lyrics are consistent with the message she has sung at a variety of speeds: that God can release us from the physical and emotional chains that bind us. But you gotta believe. “Chainbreaker,” which Billups sang to an appreciative audience at the Rhythm of Gospel Awards ceremony last month, was produced by ...

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Ananais Montague – Remember Me: Songs from the Cross, Vol. 1

Ananais Montague Remember Me: Songs from the Cross Vol. 1 Ananais Montague Music www.amusac.com By Bob Marovich Remember Me: Songs from the Cross, Volume 1, from the Chicago born and raised Ananais “Markey” Montague, is a two-disc, seventeen song project that appears to have two main purposes: to follow the narrative from Jesus’ entrance to Jerusalem (Palm Sunday) to his crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension; and to introduce the songs, either wholly composed or co-written by Montague, to other music ministers. What Montague provides is a collection of contemporary church choir songs–some simple, others more challenging–that combine the classical underpinning of Richard Smallwood with ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: June 25, 2018

“Enter His Gates” Patrick Lundy and the Ministers of Music From the New Day Distribution CD By Faith www.plundymom.com By Bob Marovich Minister Patrick Lundy’s musical instruction in the gospel and classical worlds are in evidence on the robust church rouser “Enter His Gates.” Taking its text from Psalm 100:4, the song features full production, a solid backbeat, and stirring singing that evokes Ricky Dillard’s work. The song belongs as much to the choir as to the single’s fiery lead singers, Beverly Reynolds and Jacqulyn Sanders. The album version transitions into a praise break—‘nuff said! The Georgia-born director and songwriter Lundy honed ...

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Keith “Wonderboy” Johnson – Keep Pushin’

Keith “Wonderboy” Johnson Keep Pushin’ Shanachie / SRT Entertainment (release date: May 4, 2018) www.shanachie.com By Bob Marovich It’s been 20 years since Keith “Wonderboy” Johnson appeared on the national gospel scene, introducing the traditional quartet sound to a new generation of listeners. He continues his crusade to blend the old school with the new on Keep Pushin’. Though billed as a solo project, Johnson has plenty of help from a battery of singers, including Prathan “Spanky” Williams, Josh Miles, Ray Braswell Jr., and Karen Clark. Together, they traverse musically diverse territory, though most of it remains grounded in tradition—none ...

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The Zion Messengers (self-titled)

The Zion Messengers (self-titled) 1500 Or Nothin Gospel (release date: 2013) By Bob Marovich Thanks to Snoop Dogg and his best-selling Bible of Love, gospel music enthusiasts outside of Los Angeles are now familiar with Charles “Uncle Chucc” Hamilton and the Zion Messengers. The quartet is featured prominently on that collection’s “Going Home.” You can hear echoes of the Zion Messengers, circa 2018, on their self-titled and self-produced debut CD released five years earlier. Their vocal strength is especially evident on the album’s drive-tempo numbers such as “After While” and “I’m Depending on You.” As the musicians play out the latter track, ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: June 18, 2018

“Are You Ready” Jason Champion My Block Records (release date: October 27, 2017) By Bob Marovich To a mid-tempo boogie-woogie rhythm, gospel singer Jason Champion asks the ultimate salvation question: are you ready for Jesus when He comes? He then lets loose with a couple of Sam Cooke yodels and declares he’s ready – in fact, he already has his bags packed. Now that’s ready. The song’s loose and engaging doo-wop drive is given Technicolor treatment in Derek Banks’ video, which depicts Champion dressed in retro clothes, driving a retro car, and playing a retro upright piano at an old farmhouse in ...

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Bemeche’: I’m Determined – Live

Bemeche’ I’m Determined – Live BGMN Records www.Bemeche.com By Bob Marovich It’s rare these days for gospel artists to give over most of their full album to old-time songs, but that’s what Bemeche’ Hicks has done on his I’m Determined – Live. The Virginia-based music minister even invited a bonafide church wrecker to assist with his debut CD. None other than Evangelist Dorothy Norwood joins Bemeche’ on the Roberta Martin Singers theme song, “Only a Look.” It’s a treat to hear Norwood sing and squall her way through a classic that she may not have recorded before. The Storyteller then ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: June 11, 2018

“If God” Casey J From the forthcoming Tyscot album The Gathering (single release date: June 25, 2018) www.tyscot.com Bob Marovich As a schoolteacher, Casey J has had to ask lots of hard questions. So it’s not surprising that on her new single, “If God,” she wonders aloud why there is still cancer, still violence, and “so much disease.” More questions than answers, certainly, but she and her background vocalists find solace in the question posed in Romans 8:31: “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Seemingly based on an old hymn melody, the song riffs on the ...

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