MNRK Music Group (release date: October 27, 2023)
By Robert M. Marovich
On his latest album, The Journey, worship leader and Chicagoland resident Todd Dulaney continues to deliver P&W selections steeped in Biblical wisdom. The album, recorded live at Chicago’s Calvary Baptist Church in 2022, brings the communal modern worship experience into the listener’s own sacred space.
What’s immediately noticeable is how Dulaney’s voice is deeper, matured, more oaken. The consistent background vocalists play congregation to Dulaney’s minister. Whether the songs are slow ballads or move at a quicker tempo, the overall atmosphere of The Journey is of a worship service conducted, with few exceptions, at arena-level volume and intensity.
The album opener, “No Weapon,” takes its text from Isaiah 54:17 (“No weapon formed against thee shall prosper”), then shifts seamlessly into “It Won’t Work Flow.” The reprise picks up on the scripture and develops, as frequently happens at a worship service, into something of a sacred jam session. This two-part rumination on God’s protection exceeds fourteen-minutes as Dulaney exhorts the audience to keep the faith. It would have been just as effective, however, had the flow been limited to ten minutes, on record, at least.
“Greater,” featuring Tim Godfrey, is a melodic celebration of the name of Jesus. It follows in the thematic footsteps of Dulaney’s 2018 “Your Great Name,” while “I Lift My Eyes,” based on Psalm 121, is a handsome introspective ballad and the album’s best selection. Dulaney explores his upper vocal range on the latter, though not without some aural hints of vocal fatigue, likely the product of a long and arduous recording session. The track also receives an extended reprise, this one called “My Help Flow.” Like “No Weapon,” “My Help Flow” is an extended musical exchange between Dulaney and his BGVs on the Lord’s protection. The live audience sings along with the artists during an a cappella segment.
“Great Things” is contemporary gospel with a traditional lyric. Darrel Walls sings, “Thought I wouldn’t make it / But you did it again.” The BGVs build the tension by harmonizing high above the stave. This track, too, leads to a reprise, though it is not as long as its antecedents.
With a drone-like melody, the uncomplicated “Lord I Love You” turns down the temperature and decibel level momentarily, as Dulaney encourages the audience to settle into worship mode. Bishop Hezekiah Walker assists on the current charting single, “It’s Working.” He and Dulaney bring the album’s theme of hope and healing full circle by declaring every challenge will work out in the end. And it will or, as John Lennon famously quipped, it’s not the end.
Notwithstanding its single releases, The Journey is best enjoyed in one sitting. Fans of P&W and Todd Dulaney in particular will appreciate this latest live outing.
Four of Five Stars
Picks: “I Lift My Eyes”