Songs From My Journal, Volume 2
Signature Music Group (release date: August 27, 2022)
By Robert M. Marovich
Bay Area singer-songwriter Nona Brown’s new album is a follow-up to her Songs From My Journal, Volume 1. On this second volume and live outing, she sings her way through a stack of worship songs from her own portfolio.
The energetic “All Unto You” is a conventional worship service opener, with plenty of call-and-response between Brown and her background vocalists. The late tenor Leonard Conner is featured vocalist and duets with Brown on “Praises to You,” a mellow but all-too-brief component of what she describes to the live audience as a medley of her worship songs. Also in the medley are the melodic “In Your Presence” and “Fill This Place,” each of which, along with “Praises to You,” would have benefited from a full-length rendition.
Throughout, Brown’s voice is confident and strong. Her commanding presence in the live recording environment is testimony to decades of performance experience as well as participation in such institutions as the Gospel Music Workshop of America. To the latter point, “Most Worthy,” complete with an extended squalling solo by Jonathan Johnson on the supercharged vamp, has the most gospel DNA of all the songs on the package.
“Worship is Everything” has much in common with 1970s R&B ballads by such heartbreakers as Natalie Cole and George Benson. Brown has space here to stretch out and play with the melody. The standard lyrics of “Worship and Praise” are lifted by a solid rhythm section – including go-to guitarist Jonathan DuBose and Hawkins alum Jerry Jordan on bass – blasts of brass, and Brown’s collaboration with accomplished vocalists Antoin Timmons and JaCoree Prothro.
“Glorify God” has a menacing feel courtesy of a hammering heavy metal arrangement that grows in intensity, Pastor Bo Jackson’s gravelly preaching, and the lyric line, “When we glorify God, we horrify the devil.” It’s like witnessing an exorcism in real time. The album follows this up with a 180-degree shift to a smooth, assured prediction of a better tomorrow on “Latter Days/Greater.” Kevin Moore replaces Brown’s vocals on the track with sultry saxophone work that leads listeners to the exits.
Songs From My Journal, Volume 2 is brief but polished and well-produced. Its musical roots in a Bay Area gospel vibe associated closely with Walter Hawkins is evident throughout. And it is an excellent showcase for Nona Brown’s singing and songwriting skills.
Pick: “Most Worthy”
Four of Five Stars