Reviews

“I Tried Him For Myself” – Ellen Hayes & Harmonee

“I Tried Him For Myself” Ellen Hayes & Harmonee True Inspiration Music Group (2015) www.meetellenhayes.com A breezy but insistent mid-tempo rhythm propels this soulful selection from Detroit family group Ellen Hayes & Harmonee. On “I Tried Him For Myself,” mother (Ellen) and daughters (Harmonee) offer their testimony of God’s greatness, based on experience. He made a way, he opened doors, he opened eyes. They “know too much about Him” to disbelieve. What’s especially notable about this single is Harmonee—LaToya Bellafant, Cynthia Gross and Carmen Hayes—whose background vocals are stunning. Maybe part of it is the mixing of Grammy Award-winner Eric ...

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Gerald “Da Gospel Truth” Jones Presents The Independent Spirit, Vol. 1

Various Artists Gerald “Da Gospel Truth” Jones Presents The Independent Spirit, Volume 1 (release date: September 4, 2015) www.ispiritmusic.com By Bob Marovich Industry insiders will tell you that some of the best gospel music is not being heard on mainstream gospel radio. It’s being produced by independent, or indie, artists. That should not surprise anyone. It is the case with most music genres. It has been that way for decades. Artists typically do their finest work during their “hungry” or “salad” days. And every artist was once an independent. James Cleveland. Kirk Franklin. Mahalia Jackson. The Caravans. The father of ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: September 7, 2015

“So Good” Melvin Williams feat. Dottie Peoples From the forthcoming album Where I Started From www.MelvinWilliams.net Melvin Williams of the Williams Brothers quartet joins the fiery Dottie Peoples in a bluesy gospel “take ‘em to church” moment. The Stan Jones-produced “So Good” is a litany of the many ways God has been good to His people throughout the ages, today, and into the future. By mid-recording, the two singers turn downright evangelistic, instructing the listener in urgent, direct tones to mind well their words. Someone who can “rescue Daniel from the lion’s den,” “turn water into wine” and “give eyesight ...

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Kim Burrell – A Different Place

Kim Burrell A Different Place Shanachie / New Brand Records LLC (release date: September 4, 2015) www.shanachie.com By Bob Marovich Ask any female R&B, pop, and gospel singer below retirement age about her music influences.  One in three will include Kim Burrell in her litany of vocal idols. Indeed, the church-raised singer who never took formal voice lessons was a favorite of the late Whitney Houston, who called Burrell’s voice one of the greatest. Burrell’s vocalizing exists at the six-corner crossroads of gospel, R&B, and jazz, and it’s this amalgam that she displays on her latest album, A Different Place, released today ...

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The Jones Family Singers – Live from Mt. Zion

The Jones Family Singers Live from Mt. Zion Arts + Labor (2015) www.thejonesfamilysingers.com By Bob Marovich At one point in Live from Mt. Zion, Alexis Jones, the force of nature who is the Jones Family Singers’ primary lead vocalist, says the group gets asked why they don’t sing rock and roll. Oh but we do, she explains. “I can rock in Jesus and I can rooolllll in the Holy Ghost!” Spiritual rocking, rolling, swaying, and dancing are compulsory accompaniments to the Jones Family Singers’ devotional repertory—from the group, the live audience, and the at-home listener. And for good reason. Live ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: August 31, 2015

“Worthy is the Lamb” Eminence (2015) www.cdbaby.com/cd/eminence2 On its first single, “Worthy is the Lamb,” New York-based gospel ensemble Eminence demonstrates kinship with the vocally aerobic sound of the late O’Landa Draper. Sections of soothing harmony on this majestic praiser transition abruptly to passages of throaty, dramatic angularity, and then back again, in a mashup of gospel and senior choir techniques. The group will garner interest for its demonstrative attack of lyric lines alone. Written by Karl Jackson with musical production by Gary Mayes, “Worthy is the Lamb” is reminiscent of 1990s gospel choirs but is as contemporary as this moment.

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Akita Steen Smith – A Long Time Coming (EP)

Akita Steen Smith A Long Time Coming Akita Steen Smith (2014) http://altmgtmktc.com/akita-steen/ By Bob Marovich “It’s been a long time coming,” Akita Steen Smith sings on the title track of her five-cut EP. No doubt it has been a journey, but A Long Time Coming suggests that the Detroit singer is not yet at the finish line. This independently-produced project by indie vocalist Smith is contemporary gospel steeped in smooth jazz arrangements and musicianship. Less is more, as the saying goes, and it would have been good advice for this project. In more instances than fewer, too much is going on musically, especially ...

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Juzang – Back 2 Life (EP)

Juzang Back 2 Life (EP) www.juzangmusic.com By Bob Marovich You may be asking yourself: what’s a Juzang? It’s a trio of singing sisters—Guielle, Patria, and Marisa Juzang—from Huntsville, Alabama. The lovely young ladies released their EDM-fueled inspirational single, “Back 2 Life,” this past spring. They return with a five-track EP of the same name that gives listeners a chance to hear more of their sweet harmonies. The title track, with its explosive punctuation of electronica, is still the group’s strongest offering. Nevertheless, the EP demonstrates that the trio does not need to hide behind musical pyrotechnics, however effective they may be, ...

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Pastor Waverly B. Bumbrey Sr. Presents “Seasons” Live

Pastor Waverly B. Bumbrey Sr. Presents Refuge Temple Cathedral Voices “Seasons” Live www.refugetempledetroit.org By Bob Marovich One might surmise from its title (and the image of a red bow on the cover) that “Seasons” Live is a Christmas CD. Indeed, the strains of “O Come All Ye Faithful” seep through on a selection called “Bumbrey’s Worship,” but otherwise this project by a Detroit church choir is an all-seasons release. Featuring the choir and leadership of Refuge Temple Cathedral of His Glory, notably Supt. Waverly B. Bumbrey Sr., First Lady Patricia Bumbrey, and the Refuge Temple Cathedral Voices, “Seasons” Live is ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: August 24, 2015

“You Can’t Give Up” Paul Porter From the Motown Gospel CD F.R.E.E. (2014) www.motowngospel.com Paul Porter lets his quartet roots show in this bluesy gospel song about staying encouraged in the midst of unbearable personal circumstances. Backed by a quartet, Porter sings and eventually shouts lyrics that contain what I call the spiritual ‘but’: sickness might be “getting worse and you don’t know what to do,” or “life for you has been so rough,” but hold on, put your trust in the Lord, and don’t give up–he will see you through. Porter knows whereof he sings. Stricken with a brain aneurysm in ...

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