Reviews

“On the Way” – Luther Wardlaw

“On the Way” Luther Wardlaw Ascension Records (release date: May 21, 2021) By Robert M. Marovich If you’re expecting Martin Luther Wardlaw’s “On the Way” to thrum with the downhome vibe of the Wardlaw Brothers, his family’s quartet, you’re going to be surprised. “On the Way” is a warm pop-inspired ballad sung passionately by Luther as a team of background vocalists affirm his lyrics and go higher when he goes higher. His experience scoring films is in evidence throughout the song. Luther encourages listeners to be still and know that God sees their pain and has designs for them that ...

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“It Shall Pass” – Dr. James Mable Jr.

“It Shall Pass” Dr. James Mable Jr. From the Uncle G Records album The Journey 2.0 (release date: September 18, 2020) www.JamesMableJr.com By Robert M. Marovich “I’m about to take you all the back to Navasota, Texas,” Dr. James Mable Jr. declares, referencing his hometown, as he leads the background vocalists with the fervor of a quartet lead vocalist on “It Shall Pass.” It’s a song of encouragement—“whatever you are going through, it shall pass”—and a reminder that because God is in control, trouble don’t last always. The joy that comes from knowing this fact almost leaps out of Mable’s ...

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JGM Pick of the Week – January 24, 2022

“On and On” The Collective UG From the C19 Music album The Sound of Revival (release date: December 3, 2021) www.thecollectiveug.com By Robert M. Marovich Though “On and On” is a lovely praise song by the Ugandan worship band Collective UG, it is clearly influenced by American Christian pop music. The delicate arrangement is crowned with simple lyrics and a singalong chorus sweetly sung by a female lead vocalist. Toward the end, the group seamlessly interpolates the 19th century hymn “’Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus” to such a degree that the songs sound like they are second cousins. ...

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“He’s Alright” – Frierson Brothers

“He’s Alright” Frierson Brothers From the JEF Records album Breakthrough (release date: October 18, 2021) www.friersonbrothers.com By Robert M. Marovich The Frierson Brothers hail from New Jersey, but on “He’s Alright,” they continue to sound like they are not a duo from the North but a quartet from the South. It’s because the brothers’ musical conversation about the goodness of Jesus features their meaty vocals atop a funky Memphis Sound-style rhythm section, aggressive blasts of brass, and cheery background vocalists who echo their earnest plaudits. It’s a feel-good gospel appropriate for the theme of hallelujah gratitude. “He’s Alright” is produced ...

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“Thank You” – Sonny Brown

“Thank You” Sonny Brown Independent (release date: January 3, 2022) By Robert M. Marovich If Sonny Brown’s “Thank You” has a traditional gospel quartet vibe, it’s because Brown has spent part of his career in the quartet field, notably with the Fantastic Violinaires and the Swanee Quintet. In exhalations of gutsy singing, shouting, and at least one good ol’ gospel chuckle, Brown offers effusive praise to God one moment and the next instructs listeners who have faced trials to raise their voices in gratitude. “But didn’t my God step in,” Brown asks, “and didn’t he make a way?” He is ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: January 17, 2022

“Well Done” Timothy “T.J.” Bouknight Higher Praise Records (2021) By Robert M. Marovich Elder Timothy “T.J.” Bouknight renders the pew-walker “Well Done” like the quartet veteran he is. The song is about the effort it takes to enter the gates of paradise. Bouknight opens “Well Done” with the classic couplet, “One of these days, won’t be very long…” Later, he sings about how he’s faithfully sending up his timber to get inside those gates. “When my so-called friends stabbed me in my back,” he offers, “I didn’t worry about nothing, I just stayed on track.” Bouknight’s staid-to-shouting lead vocal, especially ...

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“He Kept Me” – Lamont Sanders

“He Kept Me”Lamont SandersFrom the Bear Tag / DarkChild Gospel EP He’s a Keeper(release date: February 20, 2020)www.lamontsanders.com By Robert M. Marovich On “He Kept Me,” Lamont Sanders expresses his gratitude to God who never left him despite his doubts, mistakes, and lack of focus on the Word. Sanders sings with a confidence and muscularity equaled only by the insistent thumping of a drum that opens the song and ultimately folds itself within the rhythm section. At the end of last month, “He Kept Me” received love from Billboard, where it hit the number one spot on the mag’s Gospel ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: January 10, 2022

“Fall On Me” A. Samar Biggham A. Samar Biggham Music Group (2021) www.samarbiggham.com By Robert M. Marovich In case you are wondering, A. Samar Biggham indeed is from that Biggham family. His grandfather is the Rev. Dr. Milton Biggham, veteran choir leader and former executive of Savoy Records. His great-grandmother was a member of the Sykes Gospel Singers of Thomasville, Georgia. The acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree, the saying goes. Anthony Samar (A. Samar) has been in the gospel music ministry for about a decade but has been preaching since age 10. Among his accomplishments was appearing in ...

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“I See Heaven” – Janicka

“I See Heaven” Janicka Sonacy Music Group (release date: April 1, 2021) Gospel singer Janicka Newbill delivers her melodic single, “I See Heaven,” an invitation to God to enter the worship service, with confidence, conviction, composure, and clarity. She is ably assisted by sweetly-singing background vocalists and strings for added poignancy. At a time of too many sound-alike worship songs, this one stands out for its honeyed melody and delicacy. “I See Heaven” is written by California-based worship leaders and singing duo Bryan and Katie Torwalt. Producer is Franklin “Bubby” Fann, on whose 2002 album Judah Prayze Janicka distinguished herself ...

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“Can’t Wait” – Red Hands feat. Jonathan McReynolds

“Can’t Wait” Red Hands feat. Jonathan McReynolds Black Suit Music (release date: October 29, 2021) By Robert M. Marovich The six-member Ohio band Red Hands sways and swaggers like The Roots sans brass while Jonathan McReynolds moves and grooves as the featured vocalist on “Can’t Wait.” The funky and optimistic arrangement, amplified by the wide-eyed wonder apparent in McReynolds’ voice, portrays the journey from this life to the next not something to fear but to anticipate as eagerly as summer vacation. Finger popping all the way up the heavenly staircase. Over there is unity, singing, and worship. (I’m hoping also ...

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