Sunday, October 29, 2006

CD Review: Norris Garner - He's Blessing Me

CD Review:
He’s Blessing Me
Norris Garner
(Private press 2006)

Some independent productions ought to remain independent. Others, however, are deserving of major label attention and wider distribution. Norris Garner’s He’s Blessing Me belongs in the latter category.

He’s Blessing Me is a superb project. The title track not only has hit potential, but the composition was featured on the PBS documentary American Roots Music. In the documentary, Garner is teaching his song to the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses in New Orleans.

“Magnify Him” is a workout that introduces us to the project’s surprise treat, the magnificent Nikita Sutton. The crystal-clear quality of Sutton’s voice appears on the sonic horizon like a brilliant shooting star, and on “Angels Watching Over Me,” she really works her magic, though the arrangement of this classic is not my favorite (it’s hard to top the Angelic Gospel Singers’ simple but effective version).

“Oh How I Love Jesus” and “I’ve Come to Praise the Lord” are performed movingly by the group in the old time way, with “I’ve Come” an electrifying elaboration on the Biblical Gospel Singers’ 1960s hit for the Peacock subsidiary, Song Bird. It is the song you will want to play over and over again.

Garner clearly knows how to prick the hearts of gospel fans and newbies alike, having even made his mark as a performer and workshop instructor in Poland and Scandinavia. In fact, there’s a photo on Garner’s website that shows him working to a Polish or Danish crowd. The young, largely stoic faces seem incongruous at a gospel concert, but faintly blossoming smiles on some of the audience members give one a sense that Garner is getting through.

The production quality of He’s Blessing Me is crisp, and the song choice and placement is thoughtful and deliberate. I sincerely hope a major label picks this production up, and that Nikita Sutton makes her mark as a solo artist a.s.a.p.

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