The Westbrook Singers
(Independent Release) 2008
Billed as the “Quad Cities’ First Family of Gospel,” the Westbrook Singers – Brenda, Delores, Gary, Cynthia and Larry Jr. – hail from East Moline, Illinois and Community Outreach COGIC. Their lineage includes five living generations, including their father, Bishop Charles B. Westbrook, who is 91 and 83 year-old mother Barbara Westbrook.
The sibling group traveled from one Quad City to another, across the border to Bettendorf, Iowa and the First Assembly of God Church, to record this live album.
The group totally bowled me over. First, their complex jazz harmonies blend smartly and lovingly, and evince such technical competence that I would be surprised if some or all of the members haven’t had some level of vocal training. Of course, the effortlessness with which they interact vocally is something that only siblings who grow up singing with one another in the living room can develop.
The individual star of this project is Delores Westbrook Tingle, whose stratospheric soprano notes are reminiscent of Mariah Carey or the late Minnie Riperton. Delores hits notes so far over the ledger lines that a music transcriber would have a difficult time writing them on paper.
While the uptempo, quartet-style “Jesus Will Make It Right” is the album’s finest track, with LaDerrick Williams tossing off playful guitar riffs like Howard Carroll of the Dixie Hummingbirds, “Never Forsaken” was clearly the live audience's favorite. Its slow build, like a preacher delivering a sermon or a believer in fervent prayer, seemed to creep upon the congregants like a stifled cry and wrecked the church.
Another interesting aspect of the Westbrook Singers artistry is how they weave snippets of old hymns such as “Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone” into their modern arrangements.
The Westbrook Singers Live is another example of how an independent project can surprise and delight.
Three and a Half of Four Stars