Reviews

Michelle David & the Gospel Sessions: Vol. 4

Michelle David & the Gospel Sessions Vol. 4 MDGS Records (release date: March 6, 2020) http://michelledavidandthegospelsessions.com/ By Bob Marovich If you didn’t know better, you’d think that the fourth volume of songs by Michelle David & the Gospel Sessions is a long lost vinyl album from the 1970s, but it’s as recent as today’s breakfast. The disc reunites David, born and educated in New York and living in Holland since 1994, with Holland multi-instrumentalists Onno Smit, Toon Oomen, and Paul Willemsen. The album follows and responds to a series of highs and lows for the aggregation. Highs: Volume 3 earned ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: March 30, 2020

“Without Condition” Ashy Akakpo Independent (release date: February 16, 2020) https://www.ashyakakpo.com By Bob Marovich From North-West London, England, indie gospel artist Ashy Akakpo tests industry waters with her debut single, “Without Condition.” Understated and focused wholly on lyrics about God’s unconditional love, “Without Condition” introduces a young woman who sounds for all the world like an emerging Christian version of Alicia Keys. Don’t think so? Check out the harmony section at the single’s end and get back with me. It’s like we are spying on a late night solo happening on a half-lit church altar. Yes, less is more.

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Greg Harris – Reaching

Greg Harris Reaching KNEntertainment / Sabbath Day Records (release date: January 5, 2020) By Bob Marovich Reaching, the new studio CD by Pastor Greg Harris of Little Rock, Arkansas, features a handful of songs of praise, inspiration, and gratitude sung in several styles by Harris and a small choir. JGM’s introduction to Pastor Harris happened in 2009 with his appearance at the Gospel Music Workshop of America and a subsequent review of his live album from the same year. Reaching demonstrates Harris’s growth as a gospel singer. The two album standouts hearken back to old-fashioned Sunday morning singing. “He’s Coming ...

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The Best is Yet to Come – James C. Birdsong Jr.

The Best is Yet to Come: A Testimony of One Young Man’s Redemption. By James C. Birdsong Jr. T & J Publishers, 2017. 362pp. (softcover). ISBN 978-0-9994121-7-6 By Bob Marovich Too often, memoirs written by members of famous families paint a rosy portrait of their lives. Not so in James C. Birdsong Jr.’s earnest The Best is Yet to Come. He is unashamed to talk about the travails he and his family have endured. Indeed, he hopes his tale will help inspire others struggling under similar circumstances. James comes from the Birdsong family that has provided the world such luminaries ...

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“Just One Plague” – Esther Igbekele JP

“Just One Plague” Esther Igbekele JP By Bob Marovich To my knowledge, Nigerian gospel singer Esther Igbekele is the first music minister to release a song about COVID-19. Set to a buoyant West African rhythm, “Just One Plague” is a folk ballad that chronicles the impact Coronavirus has had on the world. Schools are closed. Businesses are closed. Sports are postponed. Economies are stalled. Governments are humbled. People need to stay a meter apart. Most astonishingly, she points out, the virus has also forced calm in the midst of international violence and political unrest. Ultimately, however, Igbekele commands the virus ...

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Isaac Carree – No Risk No Reward

Isaac Carree No Risk No Reward Shanachie Entertainment Group (release date: March 20, 2020) www.shanachie.com By Bob Marovich Isaac Carree has bestowed upon his first solo album in seven years a very accurate title. And in so doing, he has scored his best solo recording to date. No Risk No Reward finds Carree, former member of the genre-bending Men of Standard, pushing the boundaries of what constitutes a gospel album. In fact, the CD is two albums in one. The first part comprises an extended quiet storm expression of love to Carree’s earthly love, wife Dietra. As with Kim Burrell’s ...

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We Are Heirs – Awaken Me (EP)

We Are Heirs Awaken Me (EP) (release date: January 22, 2020) https://weareheirsmusic.com/ By Bob Marovich Not to be confused with the Irish group We Are Messengers, We Are Heirs is comprised of American songwriter Eric Defend and vocalist Ben Bylsma. Nevertheless, the two Christian pop groups share a musical foundation of dramatic rock with electro-symphonic overtones. We Are Heirs demonstrates its Coldplay-meets-Hillsong United vibe on an earnest three-track EP titled Awaken Me. Featuring a liquidy electronic backdrop fronted by a persistent piano riff, the title track is a melodic prayer of thanksgiving for being rescued from a metaphoric sleep and ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: March 9, 2020

“Keep Holding On” Denita Gibbs Intersound / distributed by IndieBlu Music (release date: October 19, 2018) www.denitagibbs.com By Bob Marovich Denita Gibbs of Birmingham, Alabama, entered the national consciousness in 2013 with her five-star sophomore release, Without You. She’s back with “Keep Holding On,” a finger-popping single distinguished by a husky chromatic riff on electric guitar. In a confident, convincing, pop-inflected voice, Gibbs instructs that God will see you through the dark times. Though the single is more than a year old, Gibbs still promotes it in her appearances. A member of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Inc., a ...

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“Unbelief” – Stephen King

“Unbelief” Stephen King From the CD No Secrets (release date: April 28, 2018) By Bob Marovich Not the best-selling author of horror and suspense novels, this Stephen King is a Christian rap artist from Battle Creek, Michigan, who now calls New Orleans home. “Unbelief” is from King’s debut album, 2018’s No Secrets. It’s an anguished prayer for divine assistance during a time of supreme doubt. By the end, he turns the moral of faith into a message of hope for those still trapped in anguish. If you listen hard, you will hear a recurring sample from B. B. King’s classic ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: March 2, 2020

“Patiently Praising” Fred Jerkins feat. Lowell Pye From Fred Jerkins Presents: A Project of Healing DarkChild Gospel (album release date: September 28, 2018) By Bob Marovich Men of Standard founder Lowell Pye injects the smooth soulful vocal style of his former group in the current single, “Patiently Praising.” Turning to the wisdom of Psalm 34 after receiving unsettling news, Pye commits to being patient, keeping the faith, praising the Lord, and offering thanksgiving for each new day. And as many survivors know, an optimistic attitude can indeed help the healing process. “Patiently Praising” comes from Fred Jerkins’s multi-artist A Project ...

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