Wednesday, April 23, 2014

City of Chicago Announces 29th Annual Gospel Fest Headliners - Chicago Music Blog | Chicago Music Blog

City of Chicago Announces 29th Annual Gospel Fest Headliners - Chicago Music Blog | Chicago Music Blog

"I Come To You" - Silletthia Hill

“I Come To You”
Silletthia Hill
Some Mystique Music (2014)

Backed by a robust choir, Atlanta’s Silletthia Hill weaves compelling bluesy melismatic runs over a gently rolling melody punctuated by a warbling organ.  

“I Come To You,” written by Brian Cosby, is a pledge of complete and total service to the Lord because of His grace and mercy.  It builds from quiescence to majestic exuberance.  The choir is extraordinary.

Hill honed her skills singing background for Vanessa Bell Armstrong and James Bignon, and in the gospel group Inspiration, with her sisters Florence Smith, Anita Hill, and Kutania Ingram.  She shows great versatility in this performance.

Monday, April 21, 2014

TBGB Pick of the Week: April 21, 2014

“God’s Love Lifted Me Higher”
Roscoe Robinson & the Birmingham Blind Boys
From the Mississippi Delta Blues CD
God's Love Lifted Me Higher (2014)
Trading on his experience as lead singer for the Mississippi, Alabama, and Ohio Blind Boys, veteran singer Roscoe Robinson has assembled the Birmingham Blind Boys, a new quartet named for his hometown of Birmingham, Alabama.

The title track of the Birmingham Blind Boys' new CD is also its lead single.  Led by Robinson, “God’s Love Lifted Me Higher” is an energetic gospelization of Jackie Wilson’s “Higher and Higher.”  The 1967 classic is a natural as a personal testimony of salvation, and Robinson’s dead aim on Wilson’s high notes, as John McCay's harmonica punctuates the melody, makes the emulation even more vivid. 

The Birmingham Blind Boys are Paul Montgomery, Ref. Julis Love, and James Perkins.  The quartet is holding its CD release party in Jackson, Mississippi April 28.  Click here for more details.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

It's Our Time - Dr. Vera J. Goodman & Anointed Praise

Dr. Vera J. Goodman & Anointed Praise
It’s Our Time
First Lady Productions (2014)

By Bob Marovich for The Black Gospel Blog

Independently produced church choir albums have been around since at least the early 1960s, and the results have been as mixed as the choirs recorded.  

It’s Our Time, a self-produced live recording by Jacksonville, Florida’s Temple of One Accord Ministries, International, is an example of how a DIY album can be done very well.

One of the album’s stars is songwriter and keyboardist Elder Jonathan Smith.  Smith penned most of the thirteen songs, two of which are the gospel/inspirational equivalent of jam band arrangements.  “I Believe,” is the album’s standout and was TBGB’s Pick of the Week.  To a gentle but insistent beat, the song builds from a belief in God to an extended anthem about rising above life’s obstacles.  “The Temple” is an eight-plus minute paean to perseverance that dazzles with inventive chord changes for the choir to navigate.

Speaking of the choir, the tight, sweet, and melodic harmonies of Anointed Praise brighten each song, particularly “Glory, Honor and Praise” and the brisk opener, “I’m Doin’ Me.”

Anointed Praise also gospelizes two pop songs.  “Don’t Stop the Praise” is based on Yarborough and Peoples’ 1980 R&B hit, “Don’t Stop the Music.”  “Love Song” interpolates Stevie Wonder’s “Ribbon in the Sky,” and the hook line becomes “You’re living in the sky for me.”  A little forced, perhaps, but the selection is lovingly sung and once again, the harmonies are sweet enough to eat.

The choir’s leader, Dr. Vera J. Goodman, is first lady of the church, which opened in 2007 and is pastored by Bishop Dr. Jan D. Goodman.  Anointed Praise’s deft vocals, the album's quality production, and imaginative music make It’s Our Time an exceptional church project. 

Four of Five Stars

Picks: “I Believe,” “Glory, Honor and Praise.”

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Gospel Memories - April 19, 2014: Interview with the Barrett Sisters

Enjoy this podcast of "Gospel Memories" - words and music with the Barrett Sisters: Billie Barrett GreenBey and Rodessa Barrett Porter.  Plus Dr. Mary Campbell (daughter of the late DeLois Barrett Campbell), Fran Allen-Leake, and Prof. L. Stanley Davis.

Gospel Memories - April 19, 2014

The Sweet Sisters of Zion: DeLois Barrett Campbell and the Barrett Sisters, a full-length film, will be shown at the Chicago International Music and Movies Festival (CIMM Fest) at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, May 4, at the Chop Shop, 2033 West North Avenue, Chicago.  TBGB's Bob Marovich will host the showing, which will include a Q&A session with the film's producer/director Regina Rene' and a live performance by the world-famous Barrett Sisters feat. Tina Brown.  For more information, visit

Friday, April 18, 2014

An Easter Treat: Complete Performance of Abyssinian Mass: A Gospel Celebration

Damien Sneed co-presented, in conjunction with Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center, a series of YouTube videos featuring the historic Abyssinian Mass: A Gospel Celebration.

Enjoy the entire two-hour performance of Wynton Marsalis's sacred work here, from the Frederick P. Rose Theater in New York City, Thursday evening, October 24, 2014.

Blessed Easter, everyone!


J. M. Cruver - Don't Give Up

J. M. Cruver
Don’t Give Up
Sharp Records (2014)
All James Michael Cruver wants to do is sing a church song.  He sings six, as a matter of fact, on his new Sharp Records EP, Don’t Give Up.

Originally from Newnan, Georgia, where he is primary musician at Resurrection Baptist Church, Cruver plays piano, organ, and bass guitar.  He writes music—all the songs on Don’t Give Up are from his pen—and can arrange and produce, as well.

His singing is what is most striking.  He appears to have two voices: a high falsetto and a growing baritone, a combo reminiscent of 1950s/1960s R&B recording artist Johnnie Morrisette.

Cruver puts his falsetto on display on the EP’s opener, “He That Believes,” a song based on John 3:16 and with smooth harmonies and an arrangement based on northern soul.  “It’s Me O Lord,” which riffs on the spiritual “Standing in the Need of Prayer,” is another selection steeped in the smooth major seventh chords of 1960s northern soul vocal groups.

On the other end of the music spectrum is “If You Trust in the Lord,” which features Cruver’s quartet-esque hard-shouting vocals and a steaming guitar solo.  On “Sing a Church Song,” Cruver performs a litany of snippets of traditional Zion songs to a mid-tempo blues.

Don’t Give Up is indie gospel grit and silk bound together with God’s glue.

Three of Five Stars

Pick: “He That Believes”

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

"A Little Longer" - Nancey Jackson Johnson

“A Little Longer”
Nancey Jackson Johnson
From the Camdon CD
The Heart of Nancey Jackson Johnson (2014)

I have been enamored of Nancey Jackson Johnson’s voice and dramatic take on a song ever since hearing her sing “Lead Me to the Rock” on Rev. Stef & Jubilation’s 2006 The Launch Out Project.  Since then, Nancey has recorded with Donnie McClurkin and Judith Christie McAllister, and now she is on her own.

“A Little Longer” is a prayer/soliloquy of thanksgiving.  Its recitative enables Nancey to explore a range of emotions, from simple beseeching to heart-wrenching intensity.  When she sings God’s response, it's a touching father-like request: “you don’t have to do a thing, just be with me a little longer.”  The ending has the stately simplicity of a hymn.  Passionate and powerful. 

See Nancey perform the song in the studio.

April 28 CD Release Party for Roscoe Robinson & the Birmingham Blind Boys