Johnny Ruffin Jr.
I’m Gonna Praise the Lord
JBP Music (release date: June 19, 2021)
By Robert M. Marovich
Like Keith “Wonderboy” Johnson, Johnny Ruffin Jr. of North Carolina celebrates old-school quartet singing. That’s the feeling you get from his independently-released album, I’m Gonna Praise the Lord.
While most songs have contemporary arrangements, Ruffin sings like a veteran quartet lead singer. He is most effective on covers of gospel classics like the Dixie Hummingbirds’ “So Much to Shout About” and the Jackson Southernaires’ “I Need You to Hold My Hand.”
Notwithstanding the unnecessary blasts of synth, Ruffin and Stanley “Li’l Roy” Ladson (of Roy and Revelation) deliver an exhilarating duet on “Trouble In My Way,” a song from the repertories of the Dixie Hummingbirds and the Swan Silvertones. During the vamp, the two delete days of the week one at a time as they dream of the hereafter, when everyday will be Sunday.
Ruffin’s self-penned contemporary gospel ballad, “Let God Work,” interpolates lines from Dianne Williams’ vamp from the Cosmopolitan Church of Prayer’s “Jesus Can Work it Out.” It ends with bluesy vocal runs from Breon Clary.
Cleavant Derricks’ “Just a Little Talk with Jesus” gets a funky reading. “Blessing Me” is a new arrangement of Luther Barnes’ “The Lord Keeps Blessing Me,” with CharMeka Menefee offering a sweet-to-sanctified vocal. The title track, written by Ruffin and featuring Shannon P. Futrell, is appropriately up-tempo and probably the most radio friendly of the bunch.
Ruffin’s family provides the background vocals, sometimes sounding like a small choir, other times like a quartet. Despite the independent project budget, I’m Gonna Praise the Lord sports a crisp, quality production. The CD can barely contain Ruffin’s genuine enthusiasm for gospel. The recent recipient of two Rhythm of Gospel Awards, including Traditional Male Vocalist of the Year, Johnny Ruffin Jr. is an artist who deserves serious attention.
Four of Five Stars
Pick: “Trouble In My Way”