Curtis Fondren Presents
Heart Songs and Other Melodies, Vol. 1
Independent (digital release: week of June 24, 2024)

By Robert M. Marovich

For years, popular Chicago drummer Curtis Fondren has backed up some of the city’s most iconic church choirs. He’s also written or co-written a stack of songs for a variety of artists and in a variety of styles. He presents them in an “and then I wrote” project called Heart Songs and Other Melodies, Vol. 1. A particularly appropriate title,  too, considering that “heart songs” is how Father of Gospel Music Thomas A. Dorsey referred to his earliest compositions.

Many of Fondren’s compositions, regardless of whether the lyrics are sacred or secular, roll along on a ’90s quiet storm vibe. For example, “You Are My Everything,” a love ballad to the Lord, comes complete with a dreamy reprise with Yvette Freeman’s soprano notes soaring well above the stave. With a sultry vocal from Vicki Johnson, “Here I Am” is about surrendering oneself to discipleship. On the other hand, “Peace,” sung with aplomb by Jerri Fondren, is written in the style of Andrae’ Crouch or Walter Hawkins.

The album benefits from an all-star cast of featured vocalists. Among them are Tina Brown, who has sung with the Barrett Sisters and for Jackie Taylor’s Black Ensemble Theater (Fondren has served in BET’s pit orchestra). Her deep groove selection, “Get Ready,” offers up huge helpings of optimism. “With Thee I Wed” joins Desmond Pringle and Felicia Coleman-Evans on a song written specifically to be sung at weddings.

Of the non-sacred pieces, “Meet Me” is a relationship song about taking it slow. Kozii, the vocalist for “Meet Me,” returns for a hip hop piece called “The Things You Do” that is so spicy it could blow the horn right off of the phonograph.

Just as some of the album’s featured soloists are stronger than others, some songs are stronger than others. My money is on the traditional-flavored “God’s Been So Good,” featuring a duet between Jerri Fondren and multi-hyphenate Pastor DeAndre Patterson. The album’s top selection is a COGIC rouser called “Another Chance,” delivered by gospel veteran Pastor Donald Gay in his jazz-flavored baritone. For small groups or gospel choirs, “He Did It All,” featuring the marvelous Jocelyn Buchanan and spoken word by Nash Shaffer III, offers lovely textured harmonies. A drive-tempo quartet song called “Trust Him” features the Victory Travelers’ force of nature, Lil’ Harry Bullock, and the Dubose Brothers.

Heart Songs and Other Melodies, Vol. 1 is an eclectic collection that offers singers and musicians a folio of selections to add to their own repertories.

Four of Five Stars

Picks: “Another Chance,” “Trust Him”


  1. Brenda frencher July 1, 2024 at 7:24 am - Reply

    👌 congratulations

  2. Jocelyn Buchanan July 1, 2024 at 1:07 pm - Reply

    This is a Beautiful article of Spoken truths. Amazing

  3. Schewedia Brassell July 1, 2024 at 2:44 pm - Reply

    Godblessyouindeed brother

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  5. Pamala Perryman July 4, 2024 at 9:46 am - Reply

    Congratulations Cousin❣️

  6. Claudette Tolson July 4, 2024 at 11:42 pm - Reply

    Curtis is a musical genius!

  7. Regina Rochelle Taylor July 9, 2024 at 11:23 am - Reply

    I love the smoothness of it all!!! Nice project Bro!!!!

  8. Charles July 11, 2024 at 3:48 am - Reply

    Congratulations . C. T Drummer. Love u man.

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Written by : Bob Marovich

Bob Marovich is a gospel music historian, author, and radio host. Founder of Journal of Gospel Music blog (formally The Black Gospel Blog) and producer of the Gospel Memories Radio Show.