Reviews

Soweto Gospel Choir – Hope

Soweto Gospel Choir Hope Shanachie Entertainment (release date: September 23, 2022) www.shanachie.com By Robert M. Marovich Those who haven’t been swept away by the passion and the power of South African choral harmonies are missing something special. The opportunity is available on Hope, the latest release by the award-winning Soweto Gospel Choir. The troupe celebrates twenty years with this collection of songs sung in South African languages such as Sotho, Zulu, Xhosa, Pedi, and Tswana. For Western audiences, there is more familiar English language fare. Given the shared experiences of discrimination and violence by African Americans and South African Blacks, ...

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Nona Brown – Songs From My Journal, Volume 2

Nona Brown Songs From My Journal, Volume 2 Signature Music Group (release date: August 27, 2022) https://nonabrown.org/ 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 ...

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“I Got a Story (to Tell)” – Re-Newed of the Carolinas

“I Got a Story (to Tell)” Re-Newed of the Carolinas Independent (release date: August 8, 2021) By Robert M. Marovich “I Got a Story (to Tell)” is a rousing quartet jam on the trope of the believer telling God about his earthly troubles when he gets to heaven. To a driving tempo and conventional quartet melody, the group weaves a basket full of church and gospel music aphorisms into a joyous evocation of what it might be like in the hereafter. What’s especially interesting about the selection is that just when you think its vamp has run out of gas, ...

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JGM Pick of the Week:  October 10, 2022

“Believer” Jenise La Vonne Independent (release date: August 26, 2022) www.jeniselavonne.com By Robert M. Marovich “Believer” is indie gospel artist Jenise La Vonne’s best single to date. It has it all: a powerful open, sturdy vocals, compelling lyrics, solid song structure, and chart-quality production. To a loping rhythm, Jenise declares freedom from sin and her subsequent fidelity to Christ and the holy life. The hooky refrain will have listeners singing along. Captivating. Jenise La Vonne Wright was born in Queens, New York, and raised in Norcross, Georgia. Record labels looking for new talent might just want to check this single ...

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Kay Soul – Connections

Kay Soul Connections One Nation Under God Records (release date: August 19, 2022) www.kaysoulmusic.com By Robert M. Marovich “It’s all about connections,” Chicago-based singer and model Kay Soul states in the opening moments of Connections. From there, the six-track EP explores the cycle of the human bond—from association to lack of linkage to re-association. Featuring the retro sound of a modem connecting with the Internet, “Bad Connections” is about the breach in a relationship. Kay lays out the reasons why she feels there is a “stranger in her house.” She  goes further down the spiral of discouragement in “Disconnection,” declaring ...

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Ida Elina – Capital Letters

Ida Elina Capital Letters Hello World Records (release date: August 26, 2022) https://idaelina.com/ By Robert M. Marovich It’s a guitar…it’s a dulcimer…it’s a…kantele? From Finnish singer-songwriter and YouTube sensation Ida Elina comes Capital Letters, a collection of a dozen bite-size songs that span the spectrum from pain and questioning to profound joy. And on them, she accompanies herself on the kantele. For those unfamiliar with the kantele, it is a traditional Finnish instrument with plucked strings not unlike a zither or a lap dulcimer. What Ida contributes to the kantele, however, is a slap-guitar style that makes it as much ...

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“I Win” – Last Call

“I Win” Last Call Joma Music Group (release date: September 20, 2022) www.lastcallworship.com By Robert M. Marovich “I Win” is the most recent single release from Last Call, the award-winning male gospel duo from the island of Bermuda. Backed by a thunderous vocal ensemble, Adrian and Tricray declare that the “blood-stained banner” of Jesus has paved the way, through faith, for victory over frustration, injustice, and sickness. Its heartwarming arrangement and use of the 50’s-era “ice cream” chord progression give it a vibe that is part country, part gospel, and part pop song. Definitely has the DNA of a hit. ...

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The Caravans – Where Gospel Meets Soul

The Caravans Where Gospel Meets Soul: 1952-1962 Acrobat Music (release date: September 9, 2022) www.acrobatmusic.net By Robert M. Marovich Despite their massive popularity over three decades, the Caravans have lacked a proper CD retrospective. Selections have been reissued here and there, and Savoy put out a two-album set featuring most of their hits, but there has been nothing approaching a serious survey of their musical canon. That’s why it was a delight to learn about Acrobat’s Where Gospel Meets Soul, a two-disc, 49-track exploration of one of gospel’s greatest groups. The Acrobat collection provides nearly all the singles, both the ...

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“Brought Me Out” – Kymon Smith & God Sons and Daughter

“Brought Me Out” Kymon Smith & God Sons and Daughter Independent (release date: August 6, 2021) By Robert M. Marovich “Brought Me Out” is a family affair. The Detroit-based independent gospel group Kymon Smith & God Sons and Daughter brings a contemporary flair and a touch of modern quartet to the time-honored declaration of God’s mercy and goodness as “how I got over.” The unadorned melody is marked by Mario Smith’s stinging guitar work, occasional pearls from Emory Smith’s keys, and a rhythm section that echoes the joyousness of the lyrics. Ticking lots of boxes musically and lyrically, it’s decent ...

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Ross & Eli – Signs & Seasons

Ross & Eli Signs & Seasons Independent (released July 15, 2022) By Robert M. Marovich Signs & Seasons is the prodigious product of musicians Ross Martinie Eiler and Eli Schille-Hudson and a band of equally gifted singers and musicians from Bloomington, Indiana. A group with a Catholic connection, they create multidenominational music seasoned with folk, soul, soft rock, rock ‘n’ roll, gospel, and R&B. I had the fortune of reviewing the 49-minute album as a two-disc vinyl set, which—as quality vinyl does—bestows a special warmth to the proceedings. The collection opens and closes with delicate and liturgical flourishes from guitar ...

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