Reviews

Various Artists – God’s Got a Blessing (JDI Records 20th Anniversary)

Various Artists God’s Got a Blessing JDI Records (release date: May 18, 2018) By Bob Marovich In 1998, with $7 in his bank account and a load of student loan debt, James Roberson stepped out on faith and started JDI Records (as in Just Do It). He celebrates the company’s 20th anniversary this year with a greatest hits package called God’s Got a Blessing. JDI has been mining its catalog seven ways to Sunday recently, having released The Essential Beverly Crawford Vol. 2 and JDI Classics – Music for All Occasions. God’s Got a Blessing is the best of the three because despite a ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: July 30, 2018

“Give It All to Him” The Oladipo Sisters From The Rebirth (release date: June 10, 2018) www.oladiposisters.com By Bob Marovich Boston’s Oladipo Sisters—nineteen-year-old Oladunni and seventeen-year-old Olayeni-make a joyful noise on “Give It All to Him.” Though born in Massachusetts, the sisters’ combination British and Nigerian heritage is on display in the song’s simple melody and harmonies, and its lyrics of praise and worship. Their American experience comes through their gospel vocal techniques, including some delightfully improvised soprano notes at the end. The song is on the sisters’ sophomore project, The Rebirth, which follows their 2011 debut The Mighty One and a couple ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: July 23, 2018

“Even Louder” Steven Malcolm feat. Leeland From the IVAV (Word Entertainment) EP The Second City, Pt. 2 (release date: June 8, 2018) www.StevenMalcolm.com By Bob Marovich “Even Louder,” written by Steven Malcolm and Leeland Mooring, blends musical understatement with Malcolm’s declarative rap about the many wonders of salvation. Its lullaby-like melody, incessant beat, atmospheric swirl of background voices (courtesy of Christian worship band Leeland), and string-laden interlude combine to create a captivating conclusion to Malcolm’s second in a four-part EP series called The Second City. From Grand Rapids, Michigan, Steven Malcolm is part Jamaican and celebrates his roots on the EP ...

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Brenda Jefferson – Invocation

Brenda Jefferson Invocation Scripture Music Group (release date: April 7, 2017) Available on Amazon.com By Bob Marovich Brenda Jefferson is a songwriter who can sing. On her 2007 album, A Time of Refreshing, Jefferson held her own on duets with such leading lights as Lisa Page Brooks and Joe Ligon. On Invocation, however, Jefferson prefers to focus on writing the songs and offering spoken word introductions and inspirational interludes. She leaves the singing of her songs to such an impressive passel of featured artists that the album could easily have been titled Brenda Jefferson and Friends. The album’s high point comes ...

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Phil Cook – People Are My Drug

Phil Cook People Are My Drug Psychic Hotline / Thirty Tigers (release date: June 1, 2018) www.philcookmusic.com By Bob Marovich Rootsy gospel vibes abound on Phil Cook’s second solo album, People Are My Drug. A native of from Wisconsin now living in Durham, North Carolina, Cook counts among his inspirations such classic gospel artists as the Staple Singers, the Sensational Nightingales, Margaret Allison, Shirley Caesar, and Brother Joe May. It’s evident, too, in the album’s sound, its lyrics, and even in the quartet-like vamp on two tracks (“Steampowered Blues” and “Every Mother’s Son”). “Tide of Life,” which Cook and his ensemble cover, was written by ...

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“The Pain is Going to End” – Bonita Burney Simmons

“The Pain is Going to End” Bonita Burney Simmons Bursimslow (release date: January 1, 2018) www.bonitaburneysimmons.com By Bob Marovich On her newest single, “The Pain is Going to End,” Bonita Burney Simmons reminds the listener that joy cometh in the morning, no matter how dark everything may look and feel. The song moves from general encouragement to personal testimony when she sings, “it’s just a test to what I believe – it will get better,” and later drops that new church axiom, “I don’t look like what I’ve been through.” The five-and-a-half minute track cries out for a radio edit to ...

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Steven Chesne – Sapient: A Cantata of Peace

Steven Chesne Sapient: A Cantata of Peace Brahmasong Records (2017) http://www.chezworks.com/sapient.html By Bob Marovich The first thing to understand about television, film, and concert music composer Steven Chesne’s Sapient: A Cantata of Peace is that it cannot be defined as gospel music, or spirituals, or hymns, or anthems, or religious symphonic music. Nevertheless, it is sacred music in the broadest sense of the term. The nineteen meditative parts of the cantata are sung in several languages, with lyrics based on prayers, chants, and writings that represent a variety of faiths and cultures. In Chesne’s musical landscape, the Kikuyu sit with ...

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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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