All Nations Music
Come Alive EP
RCA Inspiration (release date: July 3, 2020)
By Bob Marovich
Dr. Matthew L. Stevenson III needn’t worry about his sacred music bona fides.
Stevenson’s great-grandfather was the Reverend Elijah Thurston, founder of Chicago’s historic 44th Street Baptist Church, which produced many pioneering gospel singers and musicians. Thurston was also one of Mahalia Jackson’s favorite preachers. Stevenson’s great-grandmother, commanding gospel vocalist Ora Lee Hopkins, was a member of the Willie Webb Singers, the original Caravans, and director of the city’s New Nazareth Missionary Baptist Church choir.
While acknowledging and respecting his family’s roots in traditional church music, Stevenson is also concerned with the future of music ministry. That is also the mission of All Nations Music, a multicultural group of singers and musicians from Stevenson’s multi-site All Nations Worship Assembly.
Over the years, the church’s music department has benefited from such vocal talents as Maranda Curtis and Candy West. Both can be heard on All Nations Music’s live EP Come Alive. For example, West teams with Christabel Clark on a penetrating reading of a P&W anthem called “Glory Rise.” Curtis adds remarkable vocal vigor to the EP’s most powerful track, the nearly twelve-minute worship ballad “Carry Us Through.” Her performance injects the track’s megachurch ambiance with the Holy Ghost fire of a spirited storefront congregation.
Stevenson hearkens back to his ancestors’ preference for songs that are simple to teach and easy for congregations to sing. He can be heard in a duet with Chandler Moore on one of them, the orchestral “Yahweh.”
Benefiting from the combined production talents of Ernest Vaughan and Ryan Booker, Come Alive is an EP because it contains seven tracks, but at 56 minutes in length, there’s more music here than on many full albums. Semantics aside, the extended time gives each song room to develop from intros as delicate as butterfly’s wings to endings as mighty as thunder.
If Stevenson’s great-grandmother sang the songs of the Old Landmark, Come Alive might well contain the songs of the New Landmark.
Four of Five Stars
Pick: “Carry Us Through”