Casey J, LLC and Tyscot Records
under exclusive license to Integrity Music
(release date: January 25, 2019)
The Gathering cements Casey J’s place in the pride of young lionesses of Praise & Worship, a cadre that includes such artists as Tasha Cobbs Leonard, Preashea Hilliard, Bri Babineaux, and Dominique Jones.
Fascinatingly, what makes The Gathering work is not the characteristically P&W songs like “Hosanna” and the popular “1,000 Hallelujahs,” though the latter’s chimeric Afro-Caribbean rhythm separates it from the pack. It’s the musical risks Casey J takes by incorporating into the album’s selections styles of American music not typically associated with P&W.
I’m referring to the prominence of the banjo on “Resting Place,” which gives the song a distinctly country feel, while the handclapping on every beat in common time evokes the alt-Americana of Nathaniel Rateliff and Mumford & Sons. The fusion happens again on “Grace Wouldn’t Leave Me” with a Scotch-Irish folk song quality and cut time rhythm (again with handclapping) that bring Southern Harmony hymnody to mind, albeit at cut time. On the other side of the spectrum is “Everything I Do,” an ode to discipleship awash in energetic EDM.
In addition to the musical experimentation, Casey energizes what would otherwise be lockstep lyrics by interpolating standard prayers and hymns. For example, at one point during “One Word,” she intones the Protestant hymn chestnut Holy, Holy, Holy.” It happens again on the extended version of Casey’s single, “If God,” which she blends with the nineteenth-century hymn, “Nothing but the Blood of Jesus.”
Of the more representative P&W fare, my money is on the lovely and hypnotic “Adopted,” which at nearly eleven minutes in length is not likely to garner commercial air play, though I hope Internet stations and brokered radio shows give it some spins.
Casey J’s lyrical delivery is tailor-made for worship, and her angelic-voiced background singers deserve their propers for doing the heavy lifting throughout the album. They are the church choir to Casey’s evangelist.
Four of Five Stars
Picks: “Resting Place,” “Adopted”