L. Spenser Smith
By Bob Marovich
Recorded live on September 21, 2012, to an aurally appreciative audience at Northview Christian Church in Montgomery, Alabama, Unstoppable is singer-songwriter Bishop L. Spenser Smith’s debut as a solo artist. It’s a strong debut, too.
Smith is among the new generation of gospel male crooners, a group that includes Earnest Pugh, Brian Courtney Wilson, Micah Stampley, Keith Williams, and Jonathan Nelson. His tenor is as flexible as a gymnast. Given such vocal elasticity, it is no surprise that the ballads and hymns on Unstoppable best showcase Smith’s skills. His falsetto flights, melismatic glissando, and whispery low tones, especially on the eight-minute-plus sung prayer, “Teach Me,” would slay women if he were an R&B singer. As it was, the live recording audience were eager passengers on each vocal journey up and down the musical stave.
Although the testimonial “My Life” is the single, to my ears it is the title track, written by Smith, Daniel Johnson, and Jason Nelson, that is, without a doubt, the finest track on the CD. It is a lovely pop melody with lyrics about the power of God. While the reprise does not add much to the title track, the fact that there was a reprise at all is testimony to Smith’s flow and the audience’s positive response to the song.
Besides Smith’s voice, what also distinguishes Unstoppable is the variety of songwriters showcased on the album, including Tasha Cobbs (“Show Us You”) and the aforementioned Jason Nelson. At the same time, the quiescent treatment given to the old P.D. standby, “Come to Jesus,” is a highlight for its churchy feel. Smith has great support from background vocalists, which include Benita Washington, and live horns, which provide greater depth to any gospel project.
Former member of the Stellar-nominated gospel group Testament, Bishop L. Spenser Smith is pastor of Impact Nation Fellowship Church in Alabama and owner of the Smithworx label.
Four of Five Stars
Picks: “Unstoppable,” “Teach Me.”