Sunday, January 31, 2010

The 52nd Annual Grammy Awards - Gospel Categories

From Grammy.com: here are the 52nd Annual Grammy Awardees in the gospel categories:

Best Gospel Performance:

“Wait On The Lord”
Donnie McClurkin Featuring Karen Clark Sheard
Track from: We All Are One (Live In Detroit)
[Verity]

Best Gospel Song:

“God In Me”
Erica Campbell, Tina Campbell & Warryn Campbell, songwriters (Mary Mary Featuring Kierra "KiKi" Sheard)
Track from: The Sound
[Columbia]

Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album:

Live Revelations
Third Day
[Essential]

Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album:

The Power Of One
Israel Houghton
[Integrity Music]

Best Traditional Gospel Album:

Oh Happy Day
(Various Artists)
Bill Hearn, Ken Levitan, Ken Pennell, Jack Rovner & Cedric Thompson, producers
[EMI Gospel/Vector Recordings]


Best Contemporary R&B Gospel Album:

Audience Of One
Heather Headley
[EMI Gospel]

"I Want the World to See" - Seon Thompson

“I Want the World to See”
Seon Thompson
From the Just Wait Recordings CD I’m Out (2009)
www.seonthompson.com

Seon Thompson is the pastor from Flint, Michigan who looks as if he walked right out of the pages of GQ.

Make no mistake, however: the man can sing. He figuratively brought the ceiling down upon a Gospel Announcers Guild meeting in Cincinnati last July with his mighty performance of the title track from his debut CD, I’m Out.

To ensure his debut would have maximum impact, Thompson teamed with the talented Tyrone Dickerson and Carnell Murrell as producers. The result is top-shelf sound from beginning to end.

“I Want the World to See,” the concluding track and latest single from the album, may not have the same emotional impact on its audience as “I’m Out,” but it is radio-friendly because of its high-energy bounce and ability to grow on you with every listen.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Alisa Cameron - Seasons

Alisa Cameron
Seasons
Independent Release 2008
www.alisacameron.com

Gospel vocalist Alisa Cameron of Racine, Wisconsin, a metropolitan area just south of Milwaukee, has garnered sufficient praise over the years to have gone from a member of her family group, Bro. Williams and the Jones Sisters, to singing on the Bobby Jones television program. Recently, she shared the stage with BET Sunday Best’s top two, Stellar Award-winning singers Crystal Aikin and Shari Addison.

Cameron’s debut album, Seasons, features buoyant praise songs, hymns of struggle and hope, and traditional-style pieces, all of them written by the singer herself. Seasons benefits from solid production courtesy of Derrick Horne, bright songs, polished background vocalists, and Cameron’s commanding voice.

Contemporary cuts such as “Thank You” are enjoyable listening, and “Victory” features an extraordinary talented male background vocal group, but it is on the traditional pieces where Cameron seems most comfortable and lets loose. The album's second single, “At the Name of Jesus,” sounds like an old congregational song. “Why Would You Do It for Me” features a bluesy extended vamp. It would be great to hear an entire album of traditional and neo-traditional songs led by Cameron and her vocalists.

The title track and first single from the project is a contemporary gospel ballad inspired by Cameron’s mother, who taught the singer that people go through seasons in their lives, some good and others not-so-much. Cameron reminds listeners to be encouraged because “seasons come and seasons go.” From the sound of it, Alisa Cameron is in the midst of a good one.

Three of Five Stars

gPod Picks: “Why Would You Do It for Me,” “At the Name of Jesus.”

Son keeps alive Reid's Records, founded in '45

From the superb journalist Lee Hildebrand, writing for the San Francisco Chronicle.

A great story about that sadly dying breed, the independent record store, and specifically the independent gospel record store.

Read it here at:
Reid's Records

Thursday, January 28, 2010

"Keep Trying" - Angelia Robinson

“Keep Trying”
Angelia Robinson
From the CD Lessons in Love (2010)
www.angeliarobinson.com

Angelia Robinson grooved on a variety of musical styles while growing up in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC. “Keep Trying,” her single about the trials of self-transformation, reflects her musical eclecticism in its echoes of modern R&B and jazz.

When Robinson sings that she cannot seem to change the downward cycle of her life and cries out in a tear-stained alto, “I think I’m going insane,” I was reminded of that oft-quoted comment of questionable attribution: insanity is doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results. Not clinically diagnosable insanity, of course, but rather the disarming feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness. That is why when Robinson “calls His name,” she has changed her static methodology by relying on a heavenly power for earthly relief.

By the end of the song, it is unclear whether Robinson is healed completely. If not, she is surely on her way.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"He Will Not Change" - John Wilson

"He Will Not Change”
John Wilson
Topline Productions
www.toplinepd.com

John Wilson of Mt. Vernon, NY has worked with artists from Rev. James Cleveland and the New York Community Choir to Elton John and Patti Labelle. His music career is paralleled by stage acting in performances of shows such as Tambourines to Glory, God’s Trombones and The Amen Corner.

Wilson’s gospel ballad, “He Will Not Change,” is a gorgeous ode to the staying power of God in turbulent times. Written and recorded by John’s brother, the late Rev. Sim Wilson, Jr., “He Will Not Change” begins with the single-spotlight solitude reminiscent of Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns,” but gradually builds in brightness as Wilson adds high-tenor vocal curlicues and layers of musicians and vocalists arrive.

This song is one that gospel soloists and groups, especially those who can take a song from quietude to ferocious testimony, will want to add to their repertories.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Coko's "The Winner in Me" Video Premiere!

Knowing that you, dear readers, enjoy the videos TBGB provides, here is Coko's just released video of "The Winner in Me."

Speaking of winners, TBGB congratulates Brian H. Jackson of Euclid, OH; Thomas Matta of Erie, PA; and Tony Boyd of Montgomery, AL. All three won TBGB's "A Coko Contest," and will receive a copy of Coko's CD, The Winner in Me, courtesy of Light Records. Congratulations!

Monday, January 25, 2010

I'm On My Way - Gerald Hinton

Gerald Hinton
I’m On My Way
Davin Records 2009
http://geraldhinton.org

Stellar nominee Gerald Hinton, formerly of Gerald Hinton and the New Redeemers, has kicked around gospel quartets since he was a pre-teen. His apprenticeship is telling on his latest CD, I’m On My Way.

A traditional-leaning project, I’m On My Way features Hinton’s soulful southern drawl and Al Green-esque humming. Songs are uncomplicated and tuneful, and the groove smooth and relaxed. There’s plenty of vocal variety on the album, too; for example, the background singers sound like an African choir on the title track, and an uncredited female vocalist turns in a delightful performance on “Glad to Be Loved.”

Raising the album’s trad cred even further is guest artist Pastor Shirley Caesar, who duets with Hinton on the current single, “The Battle’s Not Over.” Hinton and Caesar work well together on this song of encouragement in the face of overwhelming troubles (the video depicts a man considering suicide).

A recurring theme on I’m On My Way is God’s omniscience. He is forever watching the bad and the good that we do. Despite our many imperfections, Hinton sings, God is always there to pick us up and dust us off. Hinton specifically addresses the failings of humanity on “You Were There” and “It’s Me, Oh Lord.” On the latter, the singer eschews Freudian psychology by declaring that when he approaches the gates of Heaven, he can’t blame his mother or his father for his failings, only himself.

Despite the heavy themes, I’m On My Way is in no way a gloomy album. Just the opposite: the music and messages focus on the eternal light at the end of the tunnel, the reasons to be optimistic, with love conquering all.

Four of Five Stars

gPod Picks: "The Battle's Not Over," "Glad to be Loved."

TBGB Pick of the Week: January 25, 2010

“Are You Listening”
Kirk Franklin Presents Artists United for Haiti
Verity Records 2010
www.verityrecords.com

This touching ode – the chorus essentially a call and response between a Haitian in distress and the artists (“we’re here and we care and yes, we feel your pain”) – follows the format established by USA for Africa and Band Aid: a queue of soloists takes turns on the verses, dozens of superstar singers carry the chorus, and soloists and chorus come together for the big finish.

The underlying theme is taken from Matthew 25: whatsoever you do for the least of my brothers and sisters, you do it for me. Not only is this the essence of Christianity, it is the responsibility of modern humanity. As a wise person once declared, “If you can’t take care of the living or the dead, what good are you?”

Most extraordinary is the speed at which Kirk Franklin organized the gathering. He leveraged the mid-January Stellar Awards ceremony and television taping in Nashville as a chance to complete the project, becuase most of the top gospel artists would be in the same place at the same time.

Humanitarian cause aside, “Are You Listening” is a rare opportunity to hear many of today’s gospel music headliners singing together on one recording.

The single is available for downloading at www.verityrecords.com.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

"Encore" - James Fortune & FIYA

“Encore”
James Fortune & FIYA
Black Smoke Music Worldwide (in stores January 26, 2010)
www.jamesfortune.us

Releasing a string of hits that took up long-term residence on the gospel singles charts during the past two years, James Fortune & FIYA have a winning formula. “Encore,” from the group’s upcoming third CD, is the latest example of their distinctive sound.

Fortune ministers directly to listeners struggling under the weight of life’s crushing challenges. His message? The same God who brought you out the last time will do it again (i.e., the encore). By the conclusion, Fortune has tightened ranks with the whisperingly-sweet FIYA and together they shepherd the troubled souls into a tornado of sound that explodes into waves of emotion and overcoming. It’s a prayer service concentrated into five minutes.

"God specializes," Gloria Griffin once posited. “…in repeat performances,” adds Fortune.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Artists United for Haiti: "Are You Listening" to Premiere January 22

From a press release:

Gospel Music All-Stars Record An Inspiring Song to Aid Relief Efforts in Haiti

“Are You Listening” features performances by GRAMMY, Stellar and Dove Award Winners CeCe Winans, BeBe Winans, Yolanda Adams, Mary Mary, Donnie McClurkin, Shirley Caesar, Fred Hammond, Smokie Norful, Marvin Sapp, Karen Clark Sheard, and many others

Steve Harvey and Tom Joyner Support Franklin and Gospel Community To Build Awareness

“Are You Listening” Available for Purchase January 22, beginning at 5 p.m., at http://www.verityrecords.com/

(New York, New York – January 22, 2009) As gospel music artists gathered in Nashville, Tennessee to celebrate the biggest and brightest at the 25th Stellar Awards this past weekend, they also came together for a higher purpose.

With the recent tragic earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Kirk Franklin (pictured) assembled numerous award-winning gospel music artists in Nashville’s Quad Studios to lend their voices to “Are You Listening,” a song they all hope will inspire those devastated as well as raise much needed funds for Haiti. All proceeds from the record will be donated to charities involved in relief efforts.

Artists United for Haiti includes (listed in alphabetical order) Yolanda Adams; Jeremy Camp; Shirley Caesar; Dorinda Clark Cole; Natalie Grant; Fred Hammond; Tamela & David Mann; Mary Mary; Donnie McClurkin; Bishop Paul S. Morton; J. Moss; Smokie Norful; Marvin Sapp; Karen Clark Sheard; Kiera "KiKi" Sheard; BeBe Winans; CeCe Winans and Marvin Winans along with other gospel artists featured in choir including Shari Addison; Kathy Taylor Brown; John Gray; Bishop Darryl Hines; Stephen Hurd; Karima Kibble; Judith McAllister; Nicole C. Mullen; Jessica Reedy; The Neville Sisters; Troy Sneed; Micah Stampley; Melinda Watts and Brian Courtney Wilson.

While Gospel music has always been about spreading the good news, what Haiti needs most are funds and resources to help them rebuild and restore their communities. “All the artists associated with the project donated their talent and gifts for this project,” says song and project producer Kirk Franklin. “This initiative is so important because while we are asking America to give we know that many are giving sacrificially. The people of Haiti are very spiritual people with an unwavering faith and belief in God and still count The Lord as the main source and provider. We will continue to pray and stand with them. We hope this song will bring much needed support and awareness in an effort to raise funds in the near and long-term future.”

“Are You Listening” also features top musicians in popular music including GRAMMY Award-winning co-producer Shaun Martin. Franklin is the executive producer along with, James “Jazzy” Jordan, executive vice president/GM of Verity Gospel Music Group; and Carla Williams and Jessie Hurst of FoYo Soul Entertainment.

There are numerous people in the gospel and Christian communities supporting the people of Haiti and this initiative. Top radio hosts Steve Harvey and Tom Joyner are supporting Kirk Franklin in effort to support our brothers and sisters in the Caribbean. On Friday, January 22, Kirk Franklin will do call-ins to both shows and Steve Harvey will play the song during his radiothon.

The Gospel Music Channel (http://www.gospelmusicchannel.com/) television network had exclusive access to the historic gathering and recording session. GMC is producing the official music video for “Are You Listening: A Love Song for Haiti” which will world premiere in a one hour special presentation on GMC Friday, Jan. 22 at 7:00 p.m. (ET), immediately before GMC’s airing of the global “Hope for Haiti Now” telethon (8:00 p.m.).

The special will be hosted by Lisa Kimmey-Winans and will feature exclusive interview footage with Kirk Franklin from the recording session interspersed throughout multiple runs of the music video. GMC will encore the special on Saturday, Jan. 23 at 6:00 p.m. (ET). The music video will then go into heavy rotation in all GMC music video blocks. GMC will also produce and premiere an exclusive “A Love Song for Haiti: The Making of ‘Are You Listening’” behind-the-scenes special in February.

“Are You Listening” will be serviced simultaneously to a variety of radio formats, including Gospel, Urban AC and Pop to create a seamless and ubiquitous presence on the airwaves, inspiring more people to lend their hand to Haiti by purchasing the song.

“Are You Listening” will be available for purchase at http://www.verityrecords.com/ starting at 5 p.m. Friday, January 22.

The single will be available next week on iTunes after January 30 at Wal-Mart and other major retailers.

For additional information on the project, please visit, http://www.kirkfranklin.com/.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

"Like This" - Jamie Simond

“Like This”
Jamie Simond
Gold Street Records

Jamie Simond began his professional career as a member of Walt Whitman’s famous Soul Children of Chicago and later served as a singer/songwriter for the Stellar-nominated male group Fortitude (aka NuWave). He penned their hit, “He’s Alright.”

“Like This” is Simond’s solo single, a song about making positive and lasting life changes. The Chicagoan sings as if he's sharing a secret with a close friend, or lifting a humble prayer on the chilly wind of a foreboding night.

Cooler and more introspective than his work with Fortitude, "Like This" demonstrates the versatility of Simond's soulful and feathery light tenor voice, like Jermaine Jackson in his prime. Quiet praise material.

For bookings, email cgroovesmusic@yahoo.com.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

At the Revival - The Mighty Clouds of Joy

The Mighty Clouds of Joy
At the Revival
EMI Gospel (release date: January 26, 2010)
www.emigospel.com

The Mighty Clouds of Joy have come full circle in the past half-century: from the raw-shouting Southern California quartet scene of the late 1950s to the funky-disco sound of the ‘70s and ‘80s, and back to their traditional roots in the new millenium.

Thank goodness.

I never could get into the group’s dalliance with disco-funk because it made them sound like everybody else – sacred and secular – and the heavy instrumentation all but drowned out their harmonies. Their new release, At the Revival, celebrates the group's Golden Anniversary with the Clouds sound we know and love, anchored as always by Joe Ligon’s tough-as-nails lead vocals and the quartet’s muscular harmonies.

Their new album was produced by quartet enthusiasts Raphael Saadiq (Mary J. Blige, John Legend) and DeVante Swing (Al Green, Usher).

The Clouds could use a revival. They haven’t had it easy in the past couple of years. Members Michael Cook and Elmo Franklin went home to glory. And on "He'll Fix It For You," Ligon sings of an illness that gave him a 40 percent chance to live. But they say tribulation makes you stronger, and the quartet sounds more energized than ever. It is as if they adopted as their motto a line from the album's “Hard Times”: “Hard times will come, hard times will go/At the end, Jesus will be a friend.”

There are a number of solid cuts on the album. Appropriately, the title track has an upbeat quartet drive tempo, with Ligon introducing the song in his characteristic preacher voice. “I’ll Be Up There” follows at a similar jog. The rootsy “Just Love Somebody” has what it takes to garner the kind of crossover appeal that Clarence Fountain and Sam Butler received for their recent radio single, “Between Darkness and the Light of Day.”

At the Revival is the best I’ve heard the Clouds sound in a long time. God bless them on their fiftieth anniversary.

Four of Five Stars

gPod Picks: “At the Revival,” "I'll Be Up There," “Just Love Somebody.”

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

G.O.L.D. - Choices

G.O.L.D.
Choices
Gold Ministries 2009
www.goldministries.net

G.O.L.D. (God’s Other Living Disciple) aka Rob Howze, is an emerging artist from Buffalo, New York who blends rhythm and praise and holy hip hop seamlessly to get his life-affirming message across. His debut album, Choices, is an auspicious introduction, chock-a-block with brisk tunes and bracing energy.

The title serves as the album’s thematic element, tying the songs and spoken word pieces together. To G.O.L.D., life is comprised of choices between right and wrong. When his protagonists make bad choices, their lives spiral downward quickly, whether it means getting caught in flagrante delicto or getting on the last nerve of violent gang members. On the other hand, when they make a positive choice to accept Jesus, their lives turn around.

As if to hammer the point home, the devil (in a deep voice, natch) appears briefly as a Garden of Eden-variety tempter.

The first half of the album is the most tuneful and ear-catching, with “Every- Time,” “My King” and “I Need You” making excellent first impressions. The bright singing of female vocalists Nicole Howze, Ruth Harley and Hannah Tores has almost as much to do with the album’s attractiveness as G.O.L.D. himself. By the conclusion of Choices, the group moves into an acoustic mood to declare that it is never too late to turn your life around.

Choices combines clever rap lyrics and no small dose of stinging reality to have its say. For those who want to try holy hip hop for the first time, it is a very approachable album.

Four of Five Stars

gPod Picks: “Every-Time,” “My King,” “I Need You.”

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hezekiah Walker, Mary Mary Garner Multiple Honors at 25th Stellar Awards

by Bob Marovich, The Black Gospel Blog

At last year’s Stellar Awards ceremony, Marvin Sapp needed a U-Haul to cart his multiple awards back to Michigan.

This year, Hezekiah Walker and the Love Fellowship Choir and Mary Mary could use some assistance lugging their hardware home.

Walker and his choir claimed five Stellar Awards, including Artist of the Year. Contemporary gospel duo Mary Mary took home four statues, including Song of the Year for their smash hit “God In Me.”

The Stellar Awards 25th Anniversary taping took place Saturday night, January 16, 2010 at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tennessee. A packed house was treated to hosts Vickie Winans, Kirk Franklin and Donnie McClurkin, and live performances that blended the old and the new.

The show featured what may arguably be some of the finest musical moments in Stellar Awards’ history.

Inspired combinations included the powerhouse trio of Tramaine Hawkins, Dottie Peoples and Shirley Caesar. Smokie Norful and Richard Smallwood sang and played grand pianos on their respective “I Need You Now” and “Total Praise.” Their classical-meets-gospel blend was the ceremony’s highlight until Donnie McClurkin, Marvin Sapp and Byron Cage sang a medley of their own individual hits and collectively brought the Grand Ole Opry down, timber by timber. Fans and artists shouted and wept. The wiry Kirk Franklin sprinted to the front of the stage to preach about how in the midst of trials, God still loves you because you are his child. The extended segment will probably not make the final edited program, but those present will agree that the show went from awards ceremony to prayer service during this portion of the program.

BET's "Sunday Best" winner Crystal Aiken and first runner-up Shari Addison also picked up Stellars. Aiken was named New Artist of the Year and Contemporary Female Vocalist of the Year, and Addison won for Traditional CD of the Year.

Special honors were bestowed on gospel music's legends. The Thomas A. Dorsey Most Notable Achievement Award went to the Mississippi Mass Choir, the James Cleveland Lifetime Achivement Award to Lee Williams and the Spiritual QCs, and the Ambassador Dr. Bobby Jones Legends Award to Edwin Hawkins. The Spiritual QCs were also named Quartet of the Year.

Visit www.thestellarawards.com for more information on 2010 nominees and awardees, and for information on when the 2010 Stellar Awards will be televised in your area.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Highlights of the Stellar Awards Radio Station of the Year Ceremony

The live music went from traditional to contemporary and back again during the Stellar Awards Radio Station of the Year Awards Ceremony, January 16, 2010, in Nashville. Dr. Al “The Bishop” Hobbs, chairman of the Gospel Announcers Guild, served as master of ceremonies.

The radio awards celebration, sponsored in part by Central South Distribution, Inc. is part of the annual Stellar Awards weekend of activities honoring black gospel music – those who write it, sing and play it, record it, distribute it, and present it.

The participants were treated to an array of gospel talent who ministered in between the awards. Guest performers included James Hall and Voices of Citadel, who warmed up the audience with their latest hit, “Wonderful,” Tamela Mann performed her gospel blues “The Master Plan,” and Bishop Darrell Hines of Milwaukee shook the rafters with “He Brought Me a Mighty Long Way.” Two-time Stellar nominees Endurance of Houston did it quartet-style with “I’ve Got a Home.”

The real surprise of the afternoon was the Nevels Sisters (photo, above) who tore the Acuff Theater up with their aerobic performance and were asked to do an encore. I never saw heads of hair get such a workout as when the Nevels Sisters got into the swing.

The awardees were:

Small Market: WEUP 1700 AM – Huntsville, AL
Medium Market: Hallelujah FM – Little Rock, AR
Large Market: WTLC 1310 AM – Indianapolis, IN
Major Market: WLIB 1190 AM – New York City, NY
Internet Radio: www.ishoutforjoy.com (Jamila Joy)

Announcer of the Year was Lonnie Hunter of Praise 103.9 in Philadelphia.

Central South Distribution REACH Awards went to:
Vickie Hill – Saginaw, MI
Willie Mae MacIver – Dallas, TX
Michael A. Davis – Memphis, TN

Congratulations to all the recipients and nominees!

Former Brooklyn Tabernacle Lead Vocalist to Hold Benefit Concert for Haiti

From a press release:

Former Brooklyn Tabernacle Lead Vocalist Presents a Benefit Concert For Earthquake-Stricken Haiti At The Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall on Friday, February 26, 2010 at 8 PM

Evening Of Gospel Music Aims To Raise Funds For The Caribbean Grace Children's Feeding Program

Haiti has just experienced the worst earthquake in its history. Hitting 7.0 on the Richter Scale, the quake has completely devastated is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. The Red Cross is estimating that over 3 million people have been affected by the natural disaster.

The country was already in a tenuous state with over 80% of Haitians unemployed. Over half live on less than $1 a day and 40% of the Haitian population doesn't have access to health care. With the recent earthquake, the plight of this third world country deeply touches the heart of gospel recording artist Paige Strackman and she's endeavored to make a difference.

Known for leading songs such as "Days Of Elijah" and "You Are Holy" with the multiple GRAMMY Award winning Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, Strackman has put her faith into action by organizing a benefit concert for Haiti to be held at The Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall on Friday, February 26, 2010 at 8 PM.

Tickets for the event at Carnegie Hall range from $24.50 -$52.50 and discounts are available for seniors and students. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased at www.CarnegieHall.org or at the Carnegie Hall Box Office located at 881 Seventh Avenue in New York City.

Portions of the proceeds will be donated to the Caribbean Grace Children's Feeding Program.

The evening will feature Strackman with Jason Michael Webb (CeCe Winans, Michael Bolton, Fantasia) as Music Director and the Harlem Quartet featuring Ilmar Gavilán and Melissa White on violin, Juan-Miguel Hernández on viola and Desmond Neysmith on cello.

Strackman, a renowned vocalist in her own right and a member of Christian Cultural Center led by Pastor A.R. Bernard located in New York City, has made multiple appearances on the Trinity Broadcasting Network with Dino, CeCe Winans and Carman. Portions of the proceeds from her debut project Who Compares To You? are being donated to Haiti and she currently has a goal of raising $7,000 in 2010 which will buy almost 14,000 pounds of rice, enough to feed 650 children twice a week for a year.

This cause is close to the heart of Paige's family as her husband is from Haiti. So Paige and her children started Lemonaid for Haiti (www.lemonaidforhaiti.com) where they set up a lemonade stand in their Brooklyn community ultimately raising thousands of dollars for the impoverished country. The funds raised were then donated to Caribbean Grace Children's Feeding Program.

Elsie Lherisson, the founder and head of the Port-au-Prince-based Program, is thrilled at the donations she's received through Lemonaid For Haiti and other similar efforts. Started in 1996, the Caribbean Grace Children's Feeding Program provides two nutritious meals each week to over 600 children. For many children, it's their only source of daily nutrition.

Those who are unable to attend the concert are encouraged to log on to www.lemonaidforhaiti.com to make tax deductible contributions to this urgent cause. For more information about Paige Strackman, go to www.PaigeStrackman.com.

Friday, January 15, 2010

"Your Reflection in Me" - Eddie Ruth Bradford

“Your Reflection in Me”
Eddie Ruth Bradford
From the CD Reflections (2009)
www.eddieruthbradfordmusic.com

In a world-weary alto, Eddie Ruth Bradford is “bowed down on bended knee,” thanking the one who saw her through life’s torments and pains, even the ones heaved upon her shoulders by so-called Christians.

But what did God see in Eddie to be so good to her? He saw Himself, she sings.

All that to a slow, soulful drag that sounds as if it sprouted up from the hallowed musical soil of Bradford’s hometown, Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Listen to a snippet of the song on ERB’s website.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Freedom's Soul - Jonathan Blanchard

Jonathan Blanchard
Freedom’s Soul
Blanchard Music Group 2009
www.jonathanblanchard.com

In 2005, classically-trained bass vocalist Jonathan Blanchard recorded And the Spirit Moved, a live recital of spirituals rendered with all of the pomp and gravity of a William Warfield or Paul Robeson program. The young man has even portrayed Robeson in a one-man show.

Turn the clock ahead four years, and the Memphian’s new CD, Freedom’s Soul, is nothing like And the Spirit Moved. In many respects, it is his personal What’s Going On.

Much like the late Marvin Gaye’s bold musical experiment in 1971, Freedom’s Soul delivers its sharp two-minute warning to humankind by wrapping its message in a variety of attractive and digestible styles. Here, it is delivered by energetic vocalists, poets, rappers and musicians, Blanchard among them. Thumping R&B, hip hop, jazz and classical music become musical bedfellows in the movement. A reggae-propelled “Go Down Moses” interpolates Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up” with fascinating effectiveness. Blanchard’s Moses doesn’t just go down, he smacks down.

A sprinkling of sorrow spirituals and an appearance by “Old Man River” offer an historical perspective for the project’s head-shaking, finger-shaking and ultimate hope for a world wrenched out of orbit by wars, injustice and regular people not taking responsibility for their own actions. Blanchard’s majestic bass voice is in full flower on “Motherless Child” and “Deep River,” the latter a quintessential spiritual for those gifted with a low register.

Tape-recorded interviews of Blanchard family members discussing their participation in the Civil Rights movement or offering viewpoints on the world today are used as interstitials. The reminiscences and points of view are important but because the interviewees are often fighting with ambient noise, they can be hard to make out at times. The snippets would have benefited from more editing for clarity and tightness.

On Freedom’s Soul, Jonathan Blanchard makes us wanna holler, throw up both our hands, but in the end helps us get by with a little help from his friends.

Four of Five Stars

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Photos from Proctor & Gamble Allstate Gospel Superfest

According to this press release, the Queen City was enveloped in gospel music once again!

*****
On Saturday, January 9, Proctor & Gamble sponsored the 11th annual Allstate Gospel Superfest in Cincinnati.

The event hosted more than 30 national acts for one night of celebration through song and praise. Performers included Dorinda Clark Cole, Regina Belle (above, left), Richard Smallwood, The Whispers, Kiki Sheard, James Fortune, Shirley Murdock (below, right), JJ Hairston, Jason Nelson, James Jackson & Atlanta Praise and many more.


During the event, TV host and entrepreneur B. Smith hosted the Bounty Soul Food Cook-off, a competition between three of America's top gospel choirs. Participating choirs included the Wilbur Belton & LADWEC Choir of Forestville, MD, Bishop Hezekiah Walker & the Love Fellowship of New York City and the Ricky Dillard and New Generation Chorale of Chicago.

Each group prepared their individual dish, allowing attendees and fellow participants to taste and vote on their favorite recipes. The winning recipe was that of the Wilbur Belton & LADWEC Choir (below).

Photos courtesy of Todd Seimer

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Coko Contest & "Behind the Scenes" Video

Coko's The Winner in Me made TBGB's list of the top fifteen gospel albums of 2009. Here's an exclusive “behind the scenes” look at Coko filming her new music video for the title track of the album. The video will premiere January 26, 2010.



Now for the contest:

Is there a winner in you? Answer these five questions:

1) What is Coko’s first and last name? (incorrect spelling = wrong answer)
2) With what popular female R&B group did Coko sing?
3) What is the title of Coko’s 2008 Christmas album?
4) What is the name of the “American Idol” contestant who duetted with Coko on her Christmas album?
5) What is the name of Coko’s first full gospel solo project (1996)?

THE CONTEST HAS CONCLUDED! THANK YOU FOR PARTICIPATING!

Monday, January 11, 2010

TBGB Pick of the Week: January 11, 2010

“The Battle’s Not Over”
Gerald Hinton featuring Shirley Caesar
From the CD I’m On My Way
http://geraldhinton.org

Gerald Hinton of the New Redeemers partners with Pastor Shirley Caesar on an honest, measured performance that speaks to the heart and soul of every person impacted by the economic crisis.

“When everything is going wrong, remember that you are not alone," sings the duo. "It ain’t over until God says it’s over.” When Pastor Caesar commands the discouraged not to throw in the towel, even the irreligious can appreciate the sincerity of the song's message.

Watch the video below.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Solomon Cross - Be Free

Solomon Cross
Be Free
Crossinspire Records 2009
www.solomoncrossonline.com

I had high hopes for Solomon Cross’ debut album, Be Free. The project from the classically-trained Cross is packed with songs he wrote and wrapped in handsome packaging with striking photos of the singer, sleeves rolled up and ready to let the praises soar.

While Cross has a voice that could melt butter, Be Free does not showcase his talent adequately. For one, Cross’s vocal style doesn’t seem to fit with the material, even though they are his own compositions. Nat Cole experienced something like this on his 1960 album of spirituals and gospels with the radio choir of Chicago's First Church of Deliverance. Like Cross, Cole had a soothing, resonant sound, but it stood in stark and mismatched contrast to the primordial power of the FCD mass choir.

Second, Cross’s songs were written during a time of frustration, searching and hope, so their honesty and genuineness are unquestionable. Their tessitura, however, is the lower register where the singer sounds least comfortable, so we miss hearing the full range of his capabilities. In fact, when Cross does venture into his higher range, he teases with very lovely, rich lines. These moments are far too infrequent.

Third, the lyrics are rapid-fire and dominate the songs when peppering in instrumental breaks would have made the performances jazzier and more interesting.

One bright spot is the opening track, the catchy “Be a Light to the World.” Here, Cross’ straightforward singing is suited perfectly for the synthetic retro background. He sounds like Morrissey of the Smiths in a moment of earth-hugging ecstasy.

Sometimes recordings fail to capture the essence of an artist, and other times they make the artist sound better than he or she actually is. In the case of Be Free, I suspect we are hearing the former. I'll venture that Solomon Cross live, especially soloing during a Bach cantata, is quite satisfying.

Two of Five Stars

Friday, January 08, 2010

"(God is God) He Won't Change" - Rev. F.C. Barnes feat. Darrell Luster

“(God is God) He Won’t Change”
Rev. F.C. Barnes feat. Darrell Luster
Atlanta International Records 2009
http://www.malaco.com/

The leisurely step beat eases in as Malaco’s gospel A&R director and quartet singer Darrell Luster (left) announces, “We’re goin’ to take you back old-school.” He introduces gospel legend Rev. F.C. Barnes (right), and together they sing in the congregational Baptist Blues tradition. Think Regina Belle’s “God is Good,” but slower and with a touch of quartet swing.

Change may be in the air, but Luster and Rev. Barnes remind us that God is God, no matter what. Whether doctor, lawyer, parent, provider, God is God.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Louise Tucker, Wife of Dixie Hummingbirds' Ira Tucker, Dies

Marc Lindy, a gospel announcer in Vancouver, informed TBGB today that Lyndon Baines Jones (Dixie Hummingbirds guitarist/vocalist) contacted him with the sad news that Mrs. Louise Tucker passed on Tuesday January 5, 2010 following a heart attack.

Louise was married to the late Ira Tucker, iconic lead singer of the Dixie Hummingbirds.

Mr. Ira Tucker, Jr. was kind to provide the photo below. Please keep him and the rest of the Tucker family in your prayers.

Marc added that Ira and Louise were deeply devoted to each other and married for sixty-four years. They are survived by three children: Ira Jr., Sundray, and Lynda; five grandchildren; ten great grandchildren; and six great-great grandchildren.

Ira and Louise are now reunited for all eternity.

Funeral arrangements are as follows:

Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Viewing: 9:00 - 11:00 a.m.
Funeral Service: 11:00 a.m.

Mt. Sinai Tabernacle Baptist Church
2727 West Lehigh Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19132

Interment: Ivy Hill Cemetery

If you would like to send flowers please call: 215-471-9721.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

"Sky Blue" - Kabanya-Chemise


“Sky Blue”
Kabanya-Chemise
From her forthcoming CD Mosaic
(single available now; CD release date: April 2010)
http://kabanya-chemise.com

Singer-songwriter Kabanya-Chemise has worked alongside artists from Usher and Jennifer Holliday to Kurt Carr and Ann Nesby. She now takes her turn in the spotlight with “Sky Blue,” fusing gospel, R&B, and her classical training with the '70s AM radio pop and soul sounds with which she grew up in Albany, Georgia.

“Sky Blue” is the first single from Kabanya’s debut CD Mosaic, due out this spring. The performance opens with menacing rumbles of thunder and a cloudburst of rain. Kabanya follows with gently rocking riffs about life’s inevitable ups and downs, “even if you live right,” but reminds us that God can “turn your midnight blue to sky blue.” The neo-soul '70s vibe was so deliciously retro that by the end of the song, when the birds are chirping, I could see in my mind’s eye Minnie Riperton somewhere above, smiling with satisfaction.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Wilma Bivens - God Will Do It (Live)

Wilma Bivens
God Will Do It (Live)
D-Lap Productions 2009
www.dlapproductions.com

On the title track of her debut album, God Will Do It, Houston’s Wilma Bivens subconsciously channels James Cleveland’s “That’s Good Enough for Me” when she sings, “I may not ever sing at the Stellars/I may never sell a million CDs/I may never get played on the radio/But that’s alright with me…my God has promised to provide.”

Among those provisions: Bivens was honored last July by the Houston Chapter of the GMWA during its “Salute to Houston’s Gospel Music Legends.” As well she should be: she has spent more than four decades as an active GMWA member. She is captain of the soprano section leaders of the GMWA Mass Choir and a member of the GMWA Houston Chapter.

Bivens should also be very proud of God Will Do It. It is a powerful indie project that showcases an experienced gospel singer who, when she isn’t shouting, sounds as if she’s about to. The album features a selection of songs written by the likes of fellow Houston Chapter member V. Michael McKay and Jeffrey LaValley. Tommy Hammond provides superb music direction and some wonderful piano licks throughout. Richard Chance all but makes the B3 speak in tongues on LaValley’s “Steadfast Love.”

Most of the recording was done in front of a live audience at Houston’s Sunlight Baptist Tabernacle. Live is where Bivens is most comfortable. Among the studio-produced tracks is the urban contemporary “Everything Will Be Alright,” on which Bivens shares the microphone with her young grandchildren Traiveon and Jalen Dunlap. The young’uns lap their granny until she’s nigh breathless.

God Will Do It is produced by her son, Brian Dunlap, who also wrote two songs for the CD. He told Bivens, “Mom, you just sing and I’ll do the rest.” Sang she did. It was alright for the live audience and it will be for you, too.

Four of Five Stars

gPod Picks: “God Will Do It,” “Mountain Be Moved,” “Just When I Need Him.”

McClurkin, Crouch to be Honored as Gospel Trailblazers

Christian Retailing reports that Broadcast Music Inc.(BMI) will honor Donnie McClurkin and Andraé Crouch during its 11th annual Trailblazers of Gospel Music Awards Luncheon.

The event will be held in Nashville January 15, 2010, the day before the Stellar Awards ceremony and television taping.

Read more at Trailblazers of Gospel Music.

Photo Credit: Christian Retailing

Monday, January 04, 2010

TBGB Pick of the Week: January 4, 2010

“Sovereign God”
Maurette Brown Clark
From the AIR CD The Dream
www.malaco.com

Like the proverbial Energizer Bunny, Maurette Brown Clark’s The Dream keeps on going after two solid years of critical and commercial success, including two number one hits and two Stellar Awards.

The latest single culled from the “Princess of Praise and Worship’s” first live album is “Sovereign God.” The track opens as a contemplative praise and worship outing fueled by Maurette’s elastic and melodic voice over cascading harmonies from the background vocalists. By the conclusion, the ensemble has elevated the temperature and drama to an evangelical boil, which overflows onto the song’s four-minute reprise.

What “Sovereign God” lacks in the sing-song energy of “One God” or the reassuring message of “It Ain’t Over,” it makes up for in the intensity of the worship experience. And from the hearty applause, “Sovereign God” was the live recording’s crowd pleaser.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Dove Nominated Gospel Artist Calvin Hunt Dead at 52

Beliefnet's Gospel Soundcheck reports that gospel artist Calvin Hunt died December 26, 2009 in Queens, NY. He was 52.

Hunt sang with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, the Brooklyn Tabernacle Singers, and the Christ Tabernacle Choir. He was also a solo artist whose recent album, Bridges (Vine Records), received two 2008 Dove Award nominations.

Read more about Hunt and his music here:
Calvin Hunt

Friday, January 01, 2010

Heather Headley Tops TBGB's "Best of 2009" Lists

The Black Gospel Blog is pleased to release its Best Fifteen Gospel Songs and Albums of 2009.

As is our prerogative and tradition, the lists are completely unscientific. They are not necessarily based on units sold, chart ranking, radio spins, fan votes, downloads, ringtones, video plays or anything that requires such secrecy that two accountants in dark suits must carry locked briefcases onto a platform.

The following lists are based purely on what I feel to be the finest examples of gospel music from projects serviced to TBGB during the past twelve months.

In compiling the list, I take into account the quality and content of the song/album and its performance, musicianship, production, passion, message, and whether the work moved me. The last is the most important, because more than any other genre, gospel music is meant to be felt as well as heard.

So here goes:

Best Fifteen Gospel Songs of 2009:

BEST SONG OF 2009:

1. I Wish – Heather Headley (EMI Gospel)

BEST OF THE REST OF 2009 (ALPHA BY ARTIST):

2. You are Everything to Me – Byron Cage, feat. Marvin Winans & Karen Clark-Sheard (Verity)
3. The Joy of the Lord – Coko (Light)
4. Don’t Do It – Mr. Del (Holy South)
5. Dreams are Possible – LaShell Griffin (DAP Music)
6. They that Wait - Fred Hammond (Verity)
7. A heart that Forgives - Kevin LeVar (Habakkuk)
8. Wait on the Lord – Donnie McClurkin w/Karen Clark-Sheard (Verity)
9. The Master Plan – Tamela Mann (Tilly Mann Music Group)
10. As Good as it Gets – Kim Ruff (Mackim)
11. So Glad He Saved Me – Monica Lisa Stevenson (Puretonez Productions)
12. Rain – Tonya Hairston Ware (Tonya Ware)
13. All I Need - Brian Courtney Wilson (Spirit Rising Music/Music World Entertainment)
14. Close to You – BeBe and CeCe Winans (Malaco/B&C Records)
15. How I Got Over – Vickie Winans (Destiny Joy)

Best Fifteen Gospel Albums of 2009:

BEST ALBUM OF 2009:

Audience of One – Heather Headley
EMI Gospel

The album the star of Broadway’s The Lion King was born to make. From her lullaby-like “I Wish” to a spirit-charged duet with Smokie Norful on “Jesus is Love” to the heart-stopping anthem “Zion,” Heather Headley is one of the most versatile and compelling voices out there.

BEST OF THE REST OF 2009 (ALPHA BY ARTIST):

Walking Through Heaven’s Gate – Glen David Andrews Band
Threadhead Records

Take traditional gospel, mix it with powerful brassy Dixieland jazz, set it in a New Orleans church, give the recording more of a you-are-there feel than most live albums, and voila: you have Walking Through Heaven’s Gate. When the Glen David Andrews Band walks through Heaven’s Gate, it is with the jubilation of the NOLA funeral brass band after the deceased has been laid to rest.

The Experience – Vanessa Bell Armstrong
EMI Gospel

Southwest Michigan Mass Choir alumna Vanessa Bell Armstrong brought her entourage to Chicago, and through the production talent of Donald Lawrence and a band of all-star guests, she turned the city’s Cultural Center on its head during this live recording. The singing powerhouse retains her position among gospel’s finest living female vocalists.

Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir – Declare Your Name
Integrity Music

“About as close to perfection as you get this side of Heaven,” the original TBGB review exclaimed, and that says it all. Carol Cymbala, Onaje Jefferson and Jason Michael Webb pen a stack of songs for the choir, each rendered by the group with passion and majesty rivaled only by the more senior Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Live in Chicago – The Brown Sisters
Kingdom Records

Long the darlings of their native Chicago and to anyone who has heard them, the tight-harmonizing Brown Sisters made the national gospel community aware of their presence with their debut album. Their praise and worship single “Awesome God” has become a radio favorite, but there’s much more on their live album to charm gospel enthusiasts.

The Winner in Me – Coko
Light Records

A member of SWV and Hezekiah Walker’s Love Fellowship Choir, Cheryl “Coko” Clemons is no stranger to gospel, but for all she’s done, A Winner in Me is her magnum opus. It showcases an ever-maturing vocalist who blends pop melodies with gospel energy while delivering a message of hope with a voice that could melt an iceberg.

Claude Deuce, the Young Elder – Claude Deuce
Livin’ It Productions

This is an example of an indie project that can run just as fast and shine just as brightly as a major label release. Detroiter Claude Deuce has lent his assistance to just about everyone in gospel at one time or another. With his debut release, he shows that when it comes his time to praise, he’s a master. A real surprise and a pleasurable listen.

Game Over – Frontlynaz
Frontlynaz, Inc.

This album might more properly belong in 2008, but TBGB heard it in early 2009 and it continues to captivate many months later. Frontlynaz employs its estimable talents in holy hip hop to rage against the mainstream music business and fakers and haters in rap and hip hop, but also to demonstrate the power of faith, belief, commitment and walking in the light.

Love Unstoppable – Fred Hammond
Verity Records

Love Unstoppable could just as easily be titled Fred Hammond Unstoppable. The praise and worship innovator demonstrates that not only is there life after Commissioned, but it is a richer, more vibrant life. Listen to the pulse-racing “They that Wait” and “Nobody Like You Lord,” and you may think, as I do, that Hammond’s best work is still ahead.

God Did That Thing – Bishop Bobby Hilton and Word of Deliverance Mass Choir
BV Hilton

“God Did That Thing” could be heard on gospel radio throughout the year, but on their album of the same name, Bishop Bobby Hilton and his Mass Choir demonstrate that they are not one-hit wonders. Powerful choir performances and guest vocals from Dorothy Norwood and Twinkie Clark hearken back to the golden age of gospel choir recordings.

Fifty Years – It’s Been Worth it All – Dorothy Norwood
Malaco Records

Storyteller Dorothy Norwood saw Pastor Shirley Caesar’s 40 year retrospective and raised her ten on her own tribute to getting over. Norwood even turned the congregational favorite “Victory is Mine,” featuring Ricky Dillard and New G, into a salute to newly-elected President Obama. Like her fellow Caravans, Norwood can still outsing just about anyone in the church.

Everybody Dance – James Roberson
JDI Records

After working behind the scenes to elevate gospel stars such as Beverly Crawford, DeNetria Champ and Norman Hutchins, it was JDI Records chief Professor James Roberson’s season to demonstrate his own musical swagger. And when he stepped out on faith and into the spotlight, Roberson eked every ounce of utility out from it, as the upbeat and joyous Everybody Dance, both single and album, demonstrate.

Oh Happy Day: All-Star Music Celebration – Various Artists
EMI Gospel/Vector Recordings

Who knew that rocker Jon Bon Jovi could sing and shout with gospel verve? Who knew that the Fisk Jubilee Singers could swing sanctified? More wonderful surprises await pop and gospel fans on this compilation, whose title track is given a superb reading by Queen Latifah, backed by Rev. Stefanie Minatee and Jubilation.

The Way I Worship – Johnny B. Williams
Johnny Williams Enterprises

Triple-threat Johnny Williams sings, writes and plays on his indie-produced album, featuring the larger-than-life vocals of fellow Houstonian Kathy Taylor. Williams worships in many ways: praise and worship, quartet, and contemporary urban, to mention just three. The Way I Worship is a masterpiece.

Surrender - Daniel Young Music Ministry
Young Entertainment

The mighty PAJAM production team is among Detroiter Daniel Young’s influences, and it is telling on his sophomore effort, Surrender. The album is what Young calls “rhythm and praise,” and is about as flawless in execution as religious projects can be. Artists such as Young prove that Detroit continues to encourage musical innovation.