CDs

Michele Thomas – The Assumption

Michele Thomas The Assumption Soulstream Music (release date: March 25, 2022) www.michelethomasmusic.com By Robert M. Marovich First of all, the title of The Assumption, jazz singer Michele Thomas’s third album, is a play on words. By referencing the Roman Catholic Church’s belief (assumption) that Mary, mother of Jesus, departed immediately to heaven upon death, she puts a sacred touch on the project’s point: trust. Second, Thomas combines her experience as a church singer, which included forming the gospel choir at North Park University, with her jazz career. The result is a sound as easy as Sunday morning but with messages ...

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Tommy Walker – Generation Hymns 3

Tommy Walker Generation Hymns 3 (release date: March 18, 2022) By Robert M. Marovich On Generation Hymns 3, worship leader, singer, and songwriter Tommy Walker teams with the Bethesda Community Church Choir and several featured vocalists to bind the hymnbook in a new cover. The Bethesda choir has a smiley Jesus People vibe. Indeed, the choir, Walker, the featured vocalists, and the robust rhythm section are uniformly upbeat, even on the album’s more sensitive selections like “He Leadeth Me” and “At the Cross.” For his part, Walker possesses a warm, friendly baritone voice that conjures Michael Buble and Harry Connick ...

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Damara Melissa – Beginnings (EP)

Damara Melissa Beginnings (EP) (release date: February 24, 2022) www.damaramelissa.com By Robert M. Marovich From Whitby, Ontario, singer-songwriter Damara Melissa evokes CCM singers Jamie Grace, Tori Kelly, and Nicole C. Mullins. Following a few recent singles, Beginnings is her first EP. Commencing her writing career to channel her emotions after the passing of her father, Damara expresses in the pop-flavored songs on Beginnings the intimacy of a soul transitioning from hurting to healing, from vulnerability to victory. The prayerful and self-empowering “Brave” is the current streaming favorite, but to my ears, “Invisible” is the EP’s highlight. This ballad about a ...

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Lawrence Hancock – Don’t Stop Caring

Lawrence Hancock Don’t Stop Caring Independent / Symphonic Distribution (release date: April 29, 2022) By Robert M. Marovich Don’t Stop Caring is Bishop Lawrence Hancock once again baring his soul and sharing the raw truth from the pulpit of experience. The Stellar-nominated Christian hip hop artist’s eighth album builds on his distinctive style of delivery: an atmospheric kaleidoscope of computer-generated electronica and rhythm supporting stream of consciousness lyricism. As such, Hancock is like a sacred version of a beat poet. As on 2020’s Who I Am and last year’s Need of You, Hancock prays out loud in a pleading, multi-tracked ...

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Gregory King – Jesus Paid It All

Gregory King Jesus Paid It All The LAB Works Studio / Nadjaron Productions (2012) By Robert M. Marovich Although Nobody Can Do Me Like Jesus,” “Payday is Coming,” and the title track of Gregory King’s 2012 album may share titles with popular hymns and gospels, that’s where the similarity ends. What you hear are newly-composed songs by King cloaked in an ‘80s funk sensibility. Thumping bass, Morris Day-era polyrhythms, pop melodies, slick call-and-response, and bits of electronica highlight this throwback album. Even King’s measured vocals, eschewing melisma for dance floor cool, evoke ‘80s R&B. Among the several featured soloists on ...

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Martha Munizzi – Best Days

Martha Munizzi Best Days Martha Munizzi Music (release date: July 29, 2021) www.marthamunizzi.com By Robert M. Marovich Martha Munizzi’s latest live album, Best Days, is a well-orchestrated worship service that focuses on the reasons to celebrate, not worry, in the midst of today’s uncertainty. The paradox of joy in the midst of a raging storm permeates the project—after all, the album was recorded in November 2020, in the midst of the pandemic. It’s also the ultimate test of faith, Munizzi teaches, in songs that are energetic and pop-inflected with beefy instrumental flourishes. She assumes pastoral authority, exhorting during songs, encouraging ...

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Psalmist Raine & the ReFresh Team – ReFresh Worship Live 3.3

Psalmist Raine & the ReFresh Team ReFresh Worship Live 3.3 ReFresh Institute (release date: March 25, 2022) www.BeReFresh.com By Robert M. Marovich One thing is certain about Psalmist Raine’s ReFresh Worship Live 3.3: it keeps on going and going and going. The final disc of the three-volume ReFresh Worship Live 3: The Fellowship of Sons and Brethren by newly-ordained Apostle Larraine McCaa, known as Psalmist Raine, has a musical stream of consciousness quality. Indeed, fashioning an improvised extended worship piece was intentional: though some songs were rehearsed in advance, others were created on the spot by the singers and musicians ...

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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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Johnny Ray Daniels – Whatever You Need

Johnny Ray Daniels Whatever You Need Bible & Tire (release date: May 6, 2022) https://fatpossum.com/collections/bible-tire-recording-co By Robert M. Marovich Like the Blind Boys of Alabama’s Jimmy Carter and the Savettes’ Goldwire McLendon, Johnny Ray Daniels didn’t record his first solo album after until after his Social Security checks started arriving. Regardless, his debut, Whatever You Need, is a fine example of how traditional gospel music still thrives in certain parts of the nation. The seventy-six-year-old patriarch of the North Carolina-based Daniels / Vines gospel music dynasty digs deep into the hymnbook for a handful of wooden church classics. His son ...

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DOE – Clarity

DOE Clarity RCA Inspiration / Life Room (release date: February 18, 2022) www.rcainspiration.com By Robert M. Marovich An extension of DOE’s self-titled 2001 EP, Clarity has the gentle, intimate vibe associated with the Grammy-nominated songwriter and former lead singer of forever JONES. But if the grooves are dreamy and some songs gush with gratitude, others are earnest expressions of vulnerability and imperfection. All point to God as the mooring in a complex world. For example, on “When I Pray,” DOE sings everyone’s quiet part out loud: “I’m not very eloquent in speech / I don’t always know how to sound ...

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