Reviews

Daniel D. – Tis So Sweet: Instrumental Violin Hymns

Daniel D. Tis So Sweet: Instrumental Violin Hymns DD Productions (release date: December 3, 2017) www.danieldmusic.com By Bob Marovich Instrumental sacred music in the African American tradition goes back decades. In fact, two of the first six sides cut by Arizona Dranes, a musician for the Church of God in Christ and among the earliest African American gospel artists to record, were sacred instrumentals (“Crucifixion” and “Sweet Heaven Is My Home”). In the contemporary gospel era, piano and organ soloists have been joined by saxophonists, trumpet players, and violinists, among others. Counted among the professional sacred violinists are Kersten Stevens, Brooke ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: February 19, 2018

“Awaiting My King” Mrs. Inspire Inspire Be You Beauty, LLC (release date: January 17, 2018) www.mrsinspire.com By Bob Marovich Mrs. Inspire lends her enchanting voice to “Awaiting My King,” a lovely melodic CCM ballad that exposes the singer’s own struggles and vulnerability in hopes of encouraging others similarly burdened to do what she has done: “cast your cares on Him.” The Texas-based singer-songwriter discovered her talent for singing, and her love for Christian music, around the age of five, and has been involved in music ministry her whole life. She has also worked as a model and promotes “modeling with a message,” ...

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Todd Dulaney – Your Great Name

Todd Dulaney Your Great Name Entertainment One Music (release date: January 19, 2018) www.eonemusic.com By Bob Marovich Todd Dulaney was nervous the evening of his live recording at Calvary Church of Naperville, Illinois, that produced Your Great Name. He had been struggling with an illness that was threatening his voice. He kept on praying, he told the audience, that this, too, shall pass. It did pass. Dulaney suddenly and dramatically retained the full range of his voice. He went on to finish the recorded worship experience. Like all worship experiences, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and that’s mostly the ...

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The Divine Souls – Favor

The Divine Souls Favor Independent (2017) https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/thedivinesouls2 By Bob Marovich “Out in the West Texas town of El Paso” is a gospel quartet named the Divine Souls. Their album, Favor, is a solid collection of ten songs that combine traditional lyrics and themes with modern musical accompaniment. Most pronounced about the Divine Souls is their harmonies. When other quartets are going high above the stave with their harmonizing, a la the Violinaires, the Divine Souls go low. The result is a meatier, more traditional baritone sound. In addition, while some quartet CDs prominently feature the lead singer while the rest of ...

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New Heart Band – A Spirit Journey

New Heart Band A Spirit Journey First Love Publishing (2017) www.newheartband.com By Bob Marovich A Spirit Journey, the independently-produced album by the New Heart Band, evokes the folk music I used to listen to on the Ozarks-based radio program Sing Out! It contains confident, laidback string band interpretations of Christian themes. The style is sometimes referred to as country gospel, a style that goes back, at least commercially, to the earliest recordings of the Carter Family. Hailing from the State of Washington, the New Heart Band consists of singer-songwriters Gregg and Elaine Christenson, producer and multi-instrumentalist Gary Ballard, singer Tina Jones, and fiddler Paul Elliott. Gregg ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: February 5, 2018

“He Knows My Name (The Worship Experience)” William H. Rainer Jr. Overboard Records (2018) https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/williamhrainerjr1 By Bob Marovich On “He Knows My Name,” husky-voiced William H. Rainer Jr. expresses delight that the Savior knows his name and has brought him through “so many things” even when he has gone astray. The track goes down smooth, its vibe falling somewhere between James Cleveland and VaShawn Mitchell. Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, William H. Rainer Jr. (“Rainey Jr.”) is a gospel singer, songwriter and bass player. He is praise team director for the Church of the Living God in Fairview Heights, Illinois, ...

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Morris Mingo feat. the With One Voice Ensemble: The Time of the Minstrel

Morris Mingo featuring the With One Voice Ensemble & Friends The Time of the Minstrel Moming Productions (release date: October 27, 2017) https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/morrismingo By Bob Marovich The Time of the Minstrel is an independently-produced album that deserves major label attention. From the quality of its packaging and album notes to the rich mix of songs to the singers and musicians, this is an excellent project. It doesn’t always work when an artist writes all the songs for his or her project, but it does for the Ohio-based Morris Mingo, who presents many top-notch songs for soloists and choir on this ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: January 30, 2018

“He Saved Me” YaLonda Lolar-Johnson Thysongbird Music Group (release date: July 2017) www.thysongbird.com By Bob Marovich YaLonda Lolar-Johnson is distinctive in gospel music for hailing from two environments not particularly well known for producing many gospel artists: St. Paul, Minnesota; and the Seventh Day Adventist Church. Nevertheless, gospel is her favorite genre and on “He Saved Me,” a song written by vocal instructor Dileesa Archer, Lolar-Johnson admits she was to blame for some of the problems in her life. She also had too much pride to ask for help, so she threw herself a pity party. But out of her emotional darkness, ...

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The Golden Bells – Thank You

The Golden Bells Thank You www.TheGoldenBells.com By Bob Marovich Much of Thank You, the latest full-length CD release by the Golden Bells of Lexington, Mississippi, is a refashioning of traditional gospel staples into the modern quartet style. Even when the songs are newly-composed and the music meets today’s gospel quartet standards, they retain the old church character in their lyric content. For example, on “Say Something Good,” the Golden Bells prefer to turn the other cheek to their haters, but by reviving some of grandma’s well-worn words of wisdom (“What goes around comes back again”), the group confirms the wisdom ...

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“Hallelujah” – Ben Harrell feat. Alisha Bender

“Hallelujah” Ben Harrell feat. Alisha Bender (release date: December 10, 2017) http://www.writersfoundationllc.org/ By Bob Marovich “Hallelujah” is part confessional, part praise song, part CCM, and part gospel. In her lovely soprano, Alicia Bender, a classically-trained singer and former member of the Howard Gospel Choir, sings Ben Harrell’s hymn about the reciprocal love between God and His people. The chorus, of which the first four notes evoke Leonard Cohen’s song by the same title, is ideal for a worship team singalong. Tunesmith Harrell has also written songs demonstrated by Summer Pearson and Paul Thompson. A number of songwriters, in fact, have ...

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