5 Stars

Hood Memorial AME Zion Church Celebration Choir – I’m In His Plans

Hood Memorial AME Zion Church Celebration Choir I‘m In His Plans Bison Disc (release date: February 23, 2021) https://hoodmemorialamez.com/ By Robert M. Marovich Time was, you would have looked long and hard in the AME Zion church writ large and found neither gospel music nor gospel singers anywhere within the four walls. Hymns, yes. Anthems, yes. Spirituals, check. Gospel songs, not so much. Then you hear “It’s About Time to Praise Him” by the joyously full-throated Celebration Choir from the Hood Memorial AME Zion Church in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and you realize those days are passed and gone. Complete with ...

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William Murphy – Worship & Justice

William Murphy Worship & Justice RCA Inspiration (release date: July 15, 2022) www.rcainspiration.com By Robert M. Marovich Do gospel artists have a responsibility to speak truth to power through their songs? Isn’t all gospel music message music, or should it be more explicit when it comes to the social gospel? Answers vary from artist to artist. For his part, Bishop William Murphy embraces the responsibility of social leadership through music ministry on Worship & Justice, his seventh album and first since 2019’s GRAMMYⓇ-nominated Settle Here. Recorded live in December 2021, at dReam Center Church in Atlanta, the album finds Murphy ...

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Maverick City x Kirk Franklin – Kingdom Book One

Maverick City x Kirk Franklin Kingdom Book One Tribl Records / Fo Yo Soul / RCA Inspiration (release date: June 17, 2022) By Robert M. Marovich Maverick City Music, gospel’s current “it” group, joined with the venerable Kirk Franklin, no stranger to special event gospel projects, to bring music and ministry to 1,300 Florida inmates. Kingdom Book One is the result. Recorded at the Everglades Correctional Institution in Miami, the album showcases MCM / Chandler Moore compositions and Franklin classics, a weary-sounding Franklin punctuating the communal singing and worship with exhortations, preaching moments, and Biblical lessons. Talented vocalists like Naomi ...

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Gospel, Vol. 6: Female Gospel Groups 1940 – 1962

Various Artists Gospel, Vol. 6: Female Gospel Groups 1940-1962 Fremeaux & Associes (2022) http://www.fremeaux.com By Robert M. Marovich If it weren’t for women, there might not be gospel music as we know it today. A gutsy statement, but accurate. For every Thomas Dorsey, Theodore Frye, and James Cleveland, there were dozens of women who, denied access to the pulpit through denominational fiat, made sacred music their evangelistic outlet. Two of gospel’s first superstars, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Mahalia Jackson, were women. The history books brim with the names of female pioneers in gospel music, among them Sallie Martin, Roberta Martin ...

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Various Artists – Malaco 50th Celebration

Various Artists Malaco 50th Celebration Malaco Music Group (release date: February 25, 2022) www.malaco.com By Robert M. Marovich The nearly two-hour Malaco 50th Celebration two CD set (and companion DVD) is one of the best releases thus far this year. Recorded live on July 12, 2018, at the record company’s golden anniversary gala at Thalia Mara Hall in Jackson, Mississippi, the package pairs current gospel stars with classic songs from Malaco’s gospel archives. Since the label owns the licensing rights to gospel music from such iconic labels as Apollo, Savoy, Atlanta International Records, Muscle Shoals Sound, GosPearl, and Onyx, it ...

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Dedicated Men of Zion – The Devil Don’t Like It

Dedicated Men of Zion The Devil Don’t Like It https://fatpossum.com/collections/bible-tire-recording-co (release date: March 3, 2022) By Robert M. Marovich On The Devil Don’t Like It, their follow-up to 2020’s Can’t Turn Me Around, the Dedicated Men of Zion quartet breathes new life into a handful of gospel classics by fitting them with arrangements that sound straight out of the soulful early 1970s. It’s been a heady time for the Eastern North Carolina quartet. In addition to Can’t Turn Me Around, their second album and debut for Bruce Watson’s Bible & Tire imprint, the group was featured on the critically-acclaimed 2021 ...

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Maranda Curtis – Die to Live

Maranda Curtis Die to Live Butterfly Works / Red Alliance Media / Fair Trade Services Release date: February 18, 2022 www.iammaranda.com By Robert M. Marovich Although his declaration doesn’t appear until several minutes into the album, Bishop John Francis essentially states the theme of Maranda Curtis’s new album Die to Live. After quoting John 12:24, Francis says: “I found out that a seed has the ability to last for millions of years, even when it’s dead. But the moment that seed, in its death state, is put in the soil, it finds life again….The death of a thing is a ...

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Javon Jackson – The Gospel According to Nikki Giovanni

Javon Jackson The Gospel According to Nikki Giovanni Solid Jackson (release date: February 18, 2022) https://www.javonjackson.com https://nikki-giovanni.com By Robert M. Marovich The Gospel According to Nikki Giovanni is a Black History Month treat from a jazz combo led by Javon Jackson, saxophonist and former member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, and the iconic poet and national treasure who lent her name to the album’s title. The album came about after Jackson, a faculty member at the Hartt School at the University of Hartford and director of its Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz, invited Giovanni to speak to his students. In ...

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Various Artists – Sacred Soul of North Carolina

Various ArtistsSacred Soul of North CarolinaMusic Maker Foundation / Bible & Tire (release date: October 15, 2021)https://biglegalmessrecords.com/collections/bible-tire By Robert M. Marovich Just before the pandemic shut down the world, Alice Vines of the Glorifying Vines Sisters of Farmville, North Carolina (crate diggers will know their singles on Pinewood and Sound Hut), gathered ten other local artists in the small town of Fountain, northwest of Greenville. Reminiscent of record producer Ralph Peer’s 1927 Bristol, Tennessee, sessions, the groups came to Fountain prepared to record. In this case, it was Tim Duffy’s Music Maker Foundation and Bruce Watson’s Bible & Tire, not ...

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Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers – Somewhere Beyond the Blue

Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers Somewhere Beyond the Blue Billy Blue Records (release date: May 7, 2021) www.radioramblers.com By Robert M. Marovich On the eleven-track Somewhere Beyond the Blue, Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers offer southern gospel singing bluegrass style in the tradition of the Louvin Brothers, Carl Story, and the Lewis Family. Tight harmonies, dynamic banjo solos, and keening fiddle runs support southern gospel songs from the pens of such stalwart songwriters as Vep Ellis, Bill Anderson, and Marty Stuart. In general, the songs are sermonettes on the virtues of a good life and the promise of ...

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