Marie Lacey
Independent (2022)

By Robert M. Marovich

On Legacy, Marie Lacey, founder, director, and self-proclaimed “choir mama” of the Belfast Community Gospel Choir, solos on a mix of southern gospel and African-American gospel songs frequently adopted by southern gospel singers.

What makes the album a “legacy” is that it is a tribute to Margaret Leebody, the well-known Northern Ireland gospel singer and, more importantly, Lacey’s mother. Leebody passed away in 2010. The songs on the album are those passed down from mother to daughter. Daughter wishes to pass these songs and the legacy, via the album, to her grandchildren.

The title of one of the selections, “Softly and Tenderly,” is an apt way to describe the album. To lush orchestral arrangements topped with a smiley choir of background vocalists, Lacey sings each hymn lovingly, gently, with few frills, just warm and friendly Gaither-style crooning. Comparisons to Sandi Patty are in order here.

Among the African American-originated gospel songs Lacey sings are Thomas A. Dorsey’s “Peace in the Valley,” which made its way into the southern gospel sphere through a 1951 hit version by Red Foley. “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” is another cut that became a multicultural favorite after being “discovered” by Chicago-based gospel singers visiting Kansas City, where the song is alleged to have originated.

John McCullough’s organ solo on “Just a Little Talk With Jesus” is superb, and the acoustic guitar arrangement for the album’s finest track, “Softly and Tenderly,” is just right for the song’s welcoming sentiment, though the choir of background singers, missing here, could have dressed it up more.

Only two of the eight tracks—“We’ll Talk It Over” and “How Long Has It Been”—have stayed firmly within the southern gospel track. The rest of the songs will be familiar to every Protestant churchgoer. Legacy is beautifully and respectfully rendered.

Three of Five Stars

Picks: “Softly and Tenderly,” “Just a Little Talk with Jesus”

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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.