CDs

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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Ellen Hayes – We Owe It All to You

Ellen Hayes We Owe It All to You Songs & Melodies Records, LLC (release date: February 6, 2022) www.meetellenhayes.com By Robert M. Marovich Any new album featuring A. Jeffrey LaValley is going to grab my attention. LaValley, the veteran gospel musician whose “Revelations 19:1” was famously sampled on Kanye West’s Jesus is King, wrote a couple of instrumentals and handles keys for some tracks on Ellen Hayes’s solo album, We Owe It All to You. Thanks to solid songwriting from Hayes, Michael Mindingall, and Sean Hardin, the album contains a greater number of individually distinctive and quality gospel songs than ...

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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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1K Phew & Lecrae – No Church in a While

1K Phew & Lecrae No Church in a While Reach Records (release date: December 3, 2021) www.reachrecords.com By Robert M. Marovich Christian hip hop artists don’t need the four walls of a church to spread the good news and save souls. They never have. Quite the opposite – they do their best work ministering along humanity’s highways and byways. Nevertheless, that didn’t keep 1K Phew and Lecrae from wondering about those who haven’t been to church in a while, because of the pandemic, because of church hurt, or both. On their ten-track No Church in a While, the Reach Records ...

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Darius Droc Jackson – The Great Commission

Darius Droc Jackson The Great Commission Independent (release date: July 17, 2020) www.youtube.com/mrdroc2010 By Robert M. Marovich I’ve heard plenty of independently-produced holy hip hop projects that leave me feeling meh. Whether it’s the hasty production, derivative beats, or humdrum rhymes, they fall short of their promise. Not so The Great Commission. Darius Droc (pron. D-Rock) Jackson and his featured vocalists and producers offer ten measured, melodic meditations on the power of global discipleship. The opening track, a hook-laden, melodic, and radio-friendly “Kingdom Business,” serves up the album’s main premise: the Great Commission to preach the word of God to ...

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Quentin Walston – The Good Book Suite

Quentin Walston The Good Book Suite (release date: November 20, 2021) www.quentinwalston.com By Robert M. Marovich Pianist-composer Quentin Walston’s The Good Book Suite is a four-part instrumental jazz piece with a spiritual foundation. A trio of piano, drums, and bass interprets Bible passages that brought Walston and his family through the financial and emotional ebbs and flows caused by the pandemic. The first two parts of the suite borrow their text from Isaiah 41:10. The incrementally dramatic tensions that ultimately envelope the opening section, “Fear Not,” resolve and transition peacefully into the optimistic “I’m With You.” Matthew 28:30 fuels “Till ...

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Gene Hoskins – Homecoming (Deluxe Edition)

Download Gene HoskinsHomecoming (Deluxe Edition)Shanachie Entertainment (release date: October 29, 2021)www.shanachie.com By Robert M. Marovich Gene Hoskins, a mental health therapist and gospel singer from North Carolina, combines his passions to provide insight and encouragement on Homecoming (Deluxe Edition). Eliding seamlessly, the first two selections, “Prodigal P.O.V.” and the title track, are the physician healing himself. Hoskins meanders on an introspective electronic R&B path, a sort-of gospel recitative on his journey back to spiritual clarity. The album truly comes alive, however, with “Make It With Jesus,” an explosively churchy piece. The single, which hit #14 on Billboard’s Gospel Singles chart, ...

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Gail Stewart & Prayz4 – s/t

Gail Stewart & Prayz4 Self-titled Independent (release date: July 12, 2017) By Robert M. Marovich What is immediately evident about the self-titled CD by the Texas-based family gospel group Gail Stewart & Prayz4 is its emphasis on modernizing traditional hymns and gospels. For example, the group gives the nineteenth-century hymn “I Need Thee” a mid-tempo R&B treatment, complete with bongos and snarling guitar, while Gail’s breathy soprano directs the rest of the singers toward a bluesy vamp. “Where He Leads Me” bathes the basic premise of the original hymn in a cornucopia of sounds, melodies, and new lyrics sufficient to ...

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Harriet Fraser – Peace

Harriet Fraser Peace Independent (release date: October 8, 2021) www.harrietfraser.com By Robert M. Marovich On her brief but touchingly lovely debut album Peace, soprano Harriet Frasier harmonizes with herself, two-parts unaccompanied, a touch of echo evoking the sense of being recorded in a stone-walled cathedral instead of the California studios that served as the true sites of production. Shawn Kirchner’s ambient arrangements of a dozen folk songs, classical pieces, and sacred fare are designed to lull the listener into a state of relaxation, calmness, peacefulness. Delivered with Fraser’s soothing voice(s), the album delivers on its premise. Of the sacred selections, ...

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