Reviews

DOE – Clarity

DOE Clarity RCA Inspiration / Life Room (release date: February 18, 2022) www.rcainspiration.com By Robert M. Marovich An extension of DOE’s self-titled 2001 EP, Clarity has the gentle, intimate vibe associated with the Grammy-nominated songwriter and former lead singer of forever JONES. But if the grooves are dreamy and some songs gush with gratitude, others are earnest expressions of vulnerability and imperfection. All point to God as the mooring in a complex world. For example, on “When I Pray,” DOE sings everyone’s quiet part out loud: “I’m not very eloquent in speech / I don’t always know how to sound ...

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“It Was You” – Keith Wonderboy Johnson

“It Was You” Keith Wonderboy Johnson Blacksmoke Music Worldwide (release date: January 28, 2022) By Robert M. Marovich “It Was You” is a slow, soulful testimony by quartet maven Keith Wonderboy Johnson. Backed by a quartet and musicians who deliver a deep ‘70s southern soul groove, Johnson expresses his relief and gratitude to the Lord for rescuing him from the miry clay of pain, trials, and tribulations. Foremost among them were acute physical challenges and years of depression. “But you brought joy into my life,” Johnson concludes, “now I have no fears.” He could have kept on going past the ...

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JGM Pick of the Week:  February 21, 2022

“Jesus”Yael HiltonLight Records / MNRK Music Group (release date: February 11, 2022)www.yaelhilton.com By Robert M. Marovich “Jesus,” the new single by the young North Carolina gospel singer Yael Hilton, expresses the confidence of a believer that there are no problems in life that Jesus cannot fix. She even weaves in John 3:16 for extra emphasis. At times, Hilton sings along with the simple melody, at other times improvises around it like a gymnast circles around the bar. The song gets downright churchy at the vamp. The organ chirps and Hilton shifts into an evangelist’s fervor while she tosses out blue ...

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Maranda Curtis – Die to Live

Maranda Curtis Die to Live Butterfly Works / Red Alliance Media / Fair Trade Services Release date: February 18, 2022 www.iammaranda.com By Robert M. Marovich Although his declaration doesn’t appear until several minutes into the album, Bishop John Francis essentially states the theme of Maranda Curtis’s new album Die to Live. After quoting John 12:24, Francis says: “I found out that a seed has the ability to last for millions of years, even when it’s dead. But the moment that seed, in its death state, is put in the soil, it finds life again….The death of a thing is a ...

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Ellen Hayes – We Owe It All to You

Ellen Hayes We Owe It All to You Songs & Melodies Records, LLC (release date: February 6, 2022) www.meetellenhayes.com By Robert M. Marovich Any new album featuring A. Jeffrey LaValley is going to grab my attention. LaValley, the veteran gospel musician whose “Revelations 19:1” was famously sampled on Kanye West’s Jesus is King, wrote a couple of instrumentals and handles keys for some tracks on Ellen Hayes’s solo album, We Owe It All to You. Thanks to solid songwriting from Hayes, Michael Mindingall, and Sean Hardin, the album contains a greater number of individually distinctive and quality gospel songs than ...

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JGM Pick of the Week:  February 14, 2022

“I See a King” The Wood Drake Sessions feat. Liz Vice Independent (release date: January 21, 2022) www.thewooddrakesessions.com By Robert M. Marovich As Christian group The Wood Drake Sessions, Paul Ranheim and Kirk Sauers keep pumping out fine singles. The duo’s latest, “I See a King,” featuring lead vocalist Liz Vice, may be their best release to date. To a retro-soul foundation buoyed by a chirping organ, Vice and the ensemble reveal the true nature of Jesus, not the one morally disfigured by the far-right. The Jesus of this song is the one we know, the one who welcomes refugees, ...

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“Now I Know” – Ted & Sheri feat. The Walls Group

“Now I Know”Ted & Sheri feat. The Walls GroupBlacksmoke Music Worldwide (release date: February 4, 2022) By Robert M. Marovich Combining the veteran duo of Ted Winn & Sheri Jones-Moffett with The Walls Group family band works so well on “Now I Know” that it makes one wonder why it took so long. The collective declares their gratitude to God who has carried them through the sunshine and rain and loves them no matter what. “Now I Know” really comes to life during the vamp, when individual members sing their testimonies while their companions keep up the chanting. A bouncy ...

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JGM Pick of the Week:  February 7, 2022

“The Garden” E. Daniels From the Presence Records CD The Garden (release date: May 2020) www.EDanielsministries.com By Robert M. Marovich While “The Garden” has been out for a while, it is deserving of a second listen, especially in preparation for Easter season. The song defies categorization. While Pastor Ernest E. (“E.”) Daniels delivers the ballad with robust gospel chops, the delicate melody and sparse arrangement evoke CCM when it isn’t trying to sound like country music. In an era of too many sound-alike songs, “The Garden” is distinctive for its heartfelt message about longing to return to that secret sacred ...

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Javon Jackson – The Gospel According to Nikki Giovanni

Javon Jackson The Gospel According to Nikki Giovanni Solid Jackson (release date: February 18, 2022) https://www.javonjackson.com https://nikki-giovanni.com By Robert M. Marovich The Gospel According to Nikki Giovanni is a Black History Month treat from a jazz combo led by Javon Jackson, saxophonist and former member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, and the iconic poet and national treasure who lent her name to the album’s title. The album came about after Jackson, a faculty member at the Hartt School at the University of Hartford and director of its Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz, invited Giovanni to speak to his students. In ...

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JGM Pick of the Week – January 31, 2022

“Let God” Eloise https://www.facebook.com/eloise.skief By Robert M. Marovich With “Let God,” Tyler, Texas, gospel singer Eloise Skief, who goes by Eloise, delivers a lovely meditation on the familiar “let go and let God” trope. The sparse piano accompaniment allows Eloise to improvise vocally, though she doesn’t go overboard. In fact, it’s her controlled ornamentation that sells the song. She takes a repetitive melody line and endows it with sufficient variety to keep the listener engaged. Though she plays it cool here, there’s an underlying energy that suggests she can offer up an explosion of musicality if a song calls for ...

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