Monday, October 31, 2011

TBGB Pick of the Week: October 31, 2011

“Blow Me Away”
Psalmist Doris Stokes
http://www.dorisastokes.com/

Okay, so it’s going to sound like a clichĂ©, but Psalmist Doris Stokes' “Blow Me Away” blew me away.

It all works: from the clubby R&B beat and the sassy background vocalists evoking En Vogue to Psalmist Stokes weaving her praise vocals under, around and through the musicianship. With her family steeped in the 1970s/1980s soul-funk movement, I’m not at all surprised at her musical eclecticism and confidence.

The Daytonian’s live album Praise and Worship...Unleashed was very good, but this single, which recently debuted on BET's Bobby Jones Gospel, marks her finest performance to date.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

"Hurt Before You Heal" - Castro Coleman & Highly Favored

“Hurt Before You Heal”
Castro Coleman & Highly Favored
From the 4 Winds Records CD Time Out!!! (2009)
http://www.malaco.com/

No cross, no crown. No pain, no gain.

Contemporary quartet Castro Coleman & Highly Favored added another boo-yah shout to the church lexicon: “Hurt Before You Heal.”

To a Muscle Shoals-style sweat-sticky soul sensibility and loping tempo, Coleman reassures those who, like him, have been “lied on, I’ve been talked about, overlooked, even mistreated.” He met “an old man who taught him a lesson: you’re going to have to hurt before you heal.”

Words to the wise and the woebegone.

And the 27th Annual Stellar Gospel Music Award Nominees Are...

NASHVILLE, TN (October 29, 2011)- The announcement of the 27th Annual Stellar Awards nominees was made during a live telecast on GMC yesterday evening.

The special program's hosts were Christian comic Akintunde and Stellar Award-winning gospel artists Trin-i-tee 5:7. They were joined by Isaac Carree, William McDowell, Y'anna Crawley and Brian Courtney Wilson, who delivered stirring performances. Stellar Award-winning artist James Fortune made a surprise guest appearance.

The 27th Annual Stellar Gospel Music Awards Show will be hosted this year by gospel legends Dorinda Clark Cole and Marvin Sapp and taped before a live audience on Saturday, January 14, 2012. The telecast is scheduled to air in national syndication from January 21, 2012 to February 26, 2012 on the GMC and local markets around the country.

The 2012 Stellar Awards Nominees are:

ARTIST OF THE YEAR
- EARNEST PUGH, EARNESTLY YOURS, BLACKSMOKE MUSIC WORLDWIDE
- KIRK FRANKLIN, HELLO FEAR, VERITY GOSPEL MUSIC GROUP
- MARY MARY, SOMETHING BIG, COLUMBIA RECORDS/MY BLOCK RECORDS
- VASHAWN MITCHELL, TRIUMPHANT, EMI GOSPEL

SONG OF THE YEAR
- DARIUS PAULK, NOBODY GREATER - TRIUMPHANT, EMI GOSPEL
- DEITRICK HADDON, WELL DONE - CHURCH ON THE MOON, VERITY GOSPEL
- KIRK FRANKLIN, I SMILE - HELLO FEAR, VERITY GOSPEL MUSIC GROUP
- WESS MORGAN, I CHOOSE TO WORSHIP - UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN, BOWTIE WORLD

MALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR
- EARNEST PUGH, EARNESTLY YOURS, BLACKSMOKE MUSIC WORLDWIDE
- ISRAEL HOUGHTON, LOVE GOD, LOVE PEOPLE, INTEGRITY MUSIC
- SMOKIE NORFUL, HOW I GOT OVER: SONGS THAT CARRIED US, TREMYLES MUSIC/EMI GOSPEL
- VASHAWN MITCHELL, TRIUMPHANT, EMI GOSPEL

ALBERTINA WALKER FEMALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR* (*renamed in 2011)
- BEVERLY CRAWFORD, LIVE FROM LOS ANGELES - VOL. 2, JDI RECORDS
- KIM BURRELL, THE LOVE ALBUM, SHANACHIE ENTERTAINMENT
- MARTHA MUNIZZI, MAKE IT LOUD!, EPIC MUSIC
- YOLANDA ADAMS, BECOMING, N-HOUSE MUSIC GROUP

GROUP/DUO OF THE YEAR
- JAMES FORTUNE & FIYA, I BELIEVE, BLACKSMOKE MUSIC WORLDWIDE
- MARY MARY, SOMETHING BIG, COLUMBIA RECORDS/MY BLOCK RECORDS
- THE RANCE ALLEN GROUP, THE LIVE EXPERIENCE II, TYSCOT MUSIC
- TRIN-I-TEE 5:7, ANGEL & CHANELLE, MUSIC WORLD GOSPEL/MUSIC WORLD

NEW ARTIST OF THE YEAR
- GREATER MOUNT CALVARY RECORDING CHOIR, GREATER MOUNT CALVARY LIVE: AS TOLD BY THE MUSIC MINISTRY, CALVARY RECORDS
- PREASHEA HILLIARD, LIVE OUT LOUD, SOUNDEFX MEDIA/BLACKSMOKE
- TODD DULANEY, PULLIN ME THROUGH, GOLDSTREET GOSPEL MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT
- Y'ANNA CRAWLEY, THE PROMISE, ID MUSIC GROUP/UNIVERSAL/FONTANA

CD OF THE YEAR
- JAMES FORTUNE & FIYA, I BELIEVE, BLACKSMOKE MUSIC WORLDWIDE
- KIRK FRANKLIN, HELLO FEAR, VERITY GOSPEL MUSIC GROUP
- MARY MARY, SOMETHING BIG, COLUMBIA RECORDS/MY BLOCK RECORDS
- VASHAWN MITCHELL, TRIUMPHANT, EMI GOSPEL

CHOIR OF THE YEAR
- CHICAGO MASS CHOIR, XV LIVE, NEW HAVEN RECORDS
- MISSISSIPPI MASS CHOIR, ...THEN SINGS MY SOUL, MALACO
- RICKY DILLARD & NEW G, KEEP LIVING, LIGHT RECORDS/ENTERTAINMENT ONE
- SHEKINAH GLORY MINISTRY, REFRESHED BY FIRE, KINGDOM RECORDS, INC.

PRODUCER OF THE YEAR
- AARON LINDSEY, TOMMY SIMS, & ISRAEL HOUGHTON, LOVE GOD,LOVE PEOPLE, INTEGRITY MUSIC
- KIRK FRANKLIN, HELLO FEAR, VERITY GOSPEL MUSIC GROUP
- VASHAWN MITCHELL, DANIEL WEATHERSPOON & RICK ROBINSON, TRIUMPHANT, EMI GOSPEL
- WARRYN CAMPBELL/ MARY MARY, SOMETHING BIG, COLUMBIA RECORDS/MY BLOCK RECORDS

CONTEMPORARY GROUP/DUO OF THE YEAR
- JAMES FORTUNE & FIYA, I BELIEVE, BLACKSMOKE MUSIC
- MARY MARY, SOMETHING BIG, COLUMBIA RECORDS/MY BLOCK RECORDS
- TRIN-I-TEE 5:7, ANGEL & CHANELLE, MUSIC WORLD GOSPEL/MUSIC WORLD

TRADITIONAL GROUP/DUO OF THE YEAR
- KEITH "WONDERBOY" JOHNSON & THE SPIRITUAL VOICES, BACK 2 BASICS, BLACKSMOKE MUSIC WORLDWIDE
- THE RANCE ALLEN GROUP, THE LIVE EXPERIENCE II, TYSCOT MUSIC & ENTERTAINMENT
- THE SOUL SEEKERS, SOUL SEEKERS II, MY BLOCK RECORDS/MALACO MUSIC GROUP

CONTEMPORARY MALE OF THE YEAR
- DEITRICK HADDON, CHURCH ON THE MOON, VERITY GOSPEL MUSIC GROUP
- EARNEST PUGH, EARNESTLY YOURS, BLACKSMOKE MUSIC WORLDWIDE
- ISRAEL HOUGTON, LOVE GOD, LOVE PEOPLE, INTEGRITY MUSIC
- VASHAWN MITCHELL, TRIUMPHANT, EMI GOSPEL

TRADITIONAL MALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR
- KEITH "WONDERBOY" JOHNSON, BACK 2 BASICS, BLACKSMOKE MUSIC WORLDWIDE
- JOHN P. KEE, THE LEGACY PROJECT, VERITY GOSPEL MUSIC GROUP
- RANCE ALLEN, THE LIVE EXPERIENCE II, TYSCOT MUSIC & ENTERTAINMENT
- SMOKIE NORFUL, HOW I GOT OVER: SONGS THAT CARRIED US, TREMYLES MUSIC/EMI GOSPEL

CONTEMPORARY FEMALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR
- KIM BURRELL, THE LOVE ALBUM, SHANACHIE ENTERTAINMENT
- PREASHEA HILLIARD, LIVE OUT LOUD, SOUNDEFX MEDIA/BLACKSMOKE
- Y'ANNA CRAWLEY, THE PROMISE, ID MUSIC GROUP/UNIVERSAL/FONTANA DISTRIBUTION
- YOLANDA ADAMS, BECOMING, N-HOUSE MUSIC GROUP

TRADITIONAL FEMALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR
- BEVERLY CRAWFORD, LIVE FROM LOS ANGELES - VOL.2, JDI RECORDS
- EVELYN TURRENTINE-AGEE, THERE'S GONNA BE A MEETING, SHANACHIE ENTERTAINMENT
- LASHUN PACE, REBORN, SHANACHIE ENTERTAINMENT
- TWINKIE CLARK, WITH HUMILITY, ARROWHEAD GOSPEL

CONTEMPORARY CD OF THE YEAR
- DEITRICK HADDON, CHURCH ON THE MOON, VERITY MUSIC GROUP
- KIRK FRANKLIN, HELLO FEAR, VERITY MUSIC GROUP
- MARY MARY, SOMETHING BIG, COLUMBIA RECORDS/MY BLOCK RECORDS
- VASHAWN MITCHELL, TRIUMPHANT, EMI GOSPEL

TRADITIONAL CD OF THE YEAR
- JOHN P. KEE, THE LEGACY PROJECT, VERITY GOSPEL MUSIC GROUP
- MISSISSIPPI MASS CHOIR, ...THEN SINGS MY SOUL, MALACO
- RICKY DILLARD & NEW G, KEEP LIVING, LIGHT RECORDS/ ENTERTAINMENT ONE
- SMOKIE NORFUL, HOW I GOT OVER: SONGS THAT CARRIED US, TREMYLES MUSIC/ EMI GOSPEL

URBAN/INSPIRATIONAL SINGLE OR PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR
- DEITRICK HADDON, WELL DONE - CHURCH ON THE MOON, VERITY GOSPEL MUSIC GROUP
- KIRK FRANKLIN, I SMILE - HELLO FEAR, VERITY GOSPEL MUSIC GROUP
- MARY MARY, WALKING - SOMETHING BIG, COLUMBIA RECORDS/ MY BLOCK RECORDS
- VASHAWN MITCHELL, NOBODY GREATER - TRIUMPHANT, EMI GOSPEL

MUSIC VIDEO OF THE YEAR - SHORT FORMAT
- CANTON JONES, GOD - DOMINIONAIRE, CAJO RECORDS
- CHRISTIAN HEUER, WALKING -SOMETHING BIG, COLUMBIA RECORDS/MY BLOCK RECORDS
- MARTHA MUNIZZI, EXCELLENT - MAKE IT LOUD!, EPIC MUSIC
- VASHAWN MITCHELL, NOBODY GREATER - TRIUMPHANT, EMI GOSPEL

MUSIC VIDEO OF THE YEAR - LONG FORMAT
- DEITRICK HADDON, CHURCH ON THE MOON: PART ONE, VERITY GOSPEL MUSIC GROUP
- JERRY PARRIES, BISHOP MORTON CELEBRATES 25 YEARS IN MUSIC, LIGHT RECORDS/ENTERTAINMENT ONE,
- MISSISSIPPI MASS CHOIR, ....THEN SINGS MY SOUL, MALACO
- RICKY DILLARD, KEEP LIVING, LIGHT RECORDS/ENTERTAINMENT ONE

TRADITIONAL CHOIR OF THE YEAR
- CHICAGO MASS CHOIR, XV LIVE, NEW HAVEN RECORDS
- GREATER MOUNT CALVARY RECORDING CHOIR, GREATER MOUNT CALVARY LIVE: AS TOLD BY THE MUSIC MINISTRY, CALVARY RECORDS
- MISSISSIPPI MASS CHOIR, ....THEN SINGS MY SOUL, MALACO
- RICKY DILLARD & NEW G, KEEP LIVING, LIGHT RECORDS/ENTERTAINMENT ONE

CONTEMPORARY CHOIR OF THE YEAR
- LONNIE HUNTER & STRUCTURE, I'M BACK, BLACKSMOKE MUSIC WORLDWIDE
- SHEKINAH GLORY MINISTRY, REFRESHED BY FIRE, KINGDOM RECORDS, INC.

INSTRUMENTAL GOSPEL CD OF THE YEAR
- HAROLD RAYFORD, I AM THE INSTRUMENT, TYSCOT MUSIC & ENTERTAINMENT
- MOSES TYSON, JR., MUSIC REMASTERED & SACRED ORGAN, TYMO RECORDS
- TODD LEDBETTER, MEDITATIONS: HYMNS IN THE KEY OF JAZZ, DAMALJAH
- WINSTON STEWART, SEASON, JOYFUL RECORDS

SPECIAL EVENT CD OF THE YEAR
- BISHOP PAUL S. MORTON, BISHOP MORTON CELEBRATES 25 YEARS OF MUSIC, LIGHT RECORDS/ENTERTAINMENT ONE
- JOHN P. KEE, THE LEGACY PROJECT, VERITY GOSPEL MUSIC GROUP
- SHEKINAH GLORY MINISTRY, REFRESHED BY FIRE, KINGDOM RECORDS, INC.
- VASHAWN MITCHELL, MY SONGBOOK, TYSCOT MUSIC & ENTERTAINMENT

RAP HIP HOP GOSPEL CD OF THE YEAR
- FLAME, CAPTURED, CLEAR SIGHT MUSIC
- LECRAE, REHAB, REACH RECORDS
- LECRAE, REHAB: THE OVERDOSE, REACH RECORDS
- VIKTORY, BIRTH OF A LEGACY: VOL. 1, VIKTORIUS MUSIC GROUP

CHILDRENS PROJECT OF THE YEAR
- PURE N HEART, TEEN PURE IN HEART LIVE, MUSIC2CHANGEU RECORDS
- SANTIAGO & CLAUDE DEUCE, MY DESTINY PLACE - MY IMAGINATION, OPEN RIVERS PICTURES/EAESIS/WORD DISTRIBUTION
- THE VELAZQUEZ FAMILY SINGERS, TEN, Z.A.V.E. RECORDS
- T-REP THE YOUNG PRAYZR, LET'S GO, YUNGSTA GRIND ENTERTAINMENT

QUARTET OF THE YEAR
- KEITH "WONDERBOY" JOHNSON & THE SPIRITUAL VOICES, BACK 2 BASICS, BLACKSMOKE MUSIC WORLDWIDE
- THE RANCE ALLEN GROUP, THE LIVE EXPERIENCE II, TYSCOT MUSIC & ENTERTAINMENT
- THE SOUL SEEKERS, SOUL SEEKERS II, MY BLOCK RECORDS/ MALACO MUSIC GROUP

RECORDED MUSIC PACKAGING OF THE YEAR
- CHRISTINA JONES, DOMINIONAIRE, CAJO RECORDS
- DENISE TROTMAN & GREG GILLIGAN, HELLO FEAR, VERITY GOSPEL MUSIC GROUP
- MARTHA MUNIZZI, MAKE IT LOUD!, EPIC MUSIC
- TANNER GARY, TRIUMPHANT, EMI GOSPEL

PRAISE AND WORSHIP CD OF THE YEAR
- EARNEST PUGH, EARNESTLY YOURS, BLACKSMOKE MUSIC WORLDWIDE
- ISRAEL HOUGHTON, LOVE GOD, LOVE PEOPLE, INTEGRITY MUSIC
- SHEKINAH GLORY MINISTRY, REFRESHED BY FIRE, KINGDOM RECORDS, INC.
- VASHAWN MITCHELL, TRIUMPHANT, EMI GOSPEL

SPOKEN WORLD CD RECORDING OF THE YEAR
- MARCO THE POET, MARCO THE POET EP, INDEPENDENT
- MICHAEL DIALLO MCLENDON, THE DIALLO EXPERIENCE, SEEDWORKS RECORDS
- SELAH, LOOK AT YOU LOVING ME, PAUSE AND THINK MINISTRIES
- TRUPOETRY, TRUPOETRY, TRUPOETRY

SPECIAL AWARDS -- HONOREES/NOMINEES

Thomas A. Dorsey Most Notable Achievement Award HONOREE
VY HIGGINSEN

Ambassador Dr. Bobby Jones Legend Award HONOREE
DOROTHY NORWOOD

James Cleveland Lifetime Achievement Award HONOREE
JOHN P. KEE

SMALL MARKET RADIO STATION OF THE YEAR
- WDJL 1000 AM, Huntsville, AL
- WJNI 106.3 FM, Charleston, SC
- KOKA 980 AM, Shreveport, LA
- WIMG 1300 AM, Trenton, NJ

MEDIUM MARKET RADIO STATION OF THE YEAR
- WLOU 1350 AM, Louisville, KY
- WPRF 94.9 FM, New Orleans, LA
- WENO 760 AM, Nashville, TN
- KPZK 102.5 FM, Little Rock, AR

LARGE MARKET RADIO STATION OF THE YEAR
- WHAL 95.7FM/1460 AM, Memphis, TN
- WFMI 100.9, Va-Norfolk-Newpt, VA
- WCAO 600 AM, Baltimore, MD
- WMBM 1490 AM, Miami, FL

MAJOR MARKET RADIO STATION OF THE YEAR
- WPZE 102.5, Atlanta, GA
- WPRS 104.1, Washington, DC
- KJLH 102.3 FM, Los Angeles, CA
- WGRB 1390 AM, Chicago, IL

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Forever Jones - Get Ready (Deluxe Edition)

Forever Jones
Get Ready - Deluxe Edition
EMI Gospel (2011)
http://www.emigospel.com/

By Bob Marovich for The Black Gospel Blog.

They sing! They play! They write songs! They have fantastic stage presence!

The “family band” of Forever Jones – originally from Washington State and now living in Shreveport, Louisiana – is a polished, well-disciplined group that bristles with energy, smiles, and talent to spare. The group would be gospel’s Partridge Family, except they are real. Still, the clean-cut, all-for-one Forever Jones evokes Shirley Jones’s (no pun intended) television family.

To maintain public momentum for the Stellar Award-winning ensemble in lieu of a new album, EMI Gospel released a deluxe edition of Forever Jones’ debut album Get Ready, which includes the original CD plus a 45-minute DVD performance recorded at TBN.

Those who know Forever Jones only from its willowy radio hit “He Wants It All” will be surprised at how downright funky the group can get on Get Ready. Further, their pop inflections evoke early Winans, while family matriarch Kim Jones’ vocal work on “Bless the Lord” brims with the blue notes of traditional gospel. This reintroduction reacquainted me with the delicate, tuneful “Time to Believe,” another strong candidate for single status on Get Ready.

On the well-produced DVD, essentially a television special, Forever Jones sings every song on the album (in a different order) and demonstrates how band-box neat they look and how professionally they come across in performance. Dominique’ is the family’s go-to soloist; she’s the lead voice and pianist on “He Wants It All.” The ladies are up front for most of the program, though the male Joneses, who are among the musicians, contribute a lead vocal line or two.

Not histrionic but musically focused in performance, Forever Jones exudes the contentment of straight-up, no frills ministry. One hopes that the group continues to offer their brand of honest musicality for a long time.

Picks: “He Wants It All,” “Time to Believe.”

Five of Five Stars

Monnette Sudler at Sister Rosetta Tharpe Historical Marker Ceremony

Monnette Sudler plays "Up Above My Head" at the Sister Rosetta Tharpe Historical Marker Ceremony. This month, an informational marker was placed outside the home where Tharpe lived while in Philadelphia.

Thanks to Bob Merz for passing the video along to us.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Behind the Scenes with Trin-i-tee 5:7 (Part Five of Five)

Chicago's Gospel Fest....Back in 2012!

Good news! Chicago Sun-Times reports that Gospel Fest will return to the city as a stand-alone event. Read more here:

Chicago Gospel Fest 2012


But here's one question: why is the city keeping the blues and jazz festivals downtown and moving gospel fest to the south side? Sure, that's where gospel was born -- okay, I'll grant that -- but it sure smacks of divisiveness. Why not host a festival that is almost 100 percent attended by African Americans in the downtown Millenium Park area? I think the city needs to think it through some more.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Darryl Anderson - You Are

Darryl Anderson
You Are
IYAMHIZ Music (2011)
http://www.cduniverse.com/

By Bob Marovich for The Black Gospel Blog.

When it comes to gospel jazz, the saxophone predominates.

Vernard Johnson. Harold Rayford. Reggie Houston. Angella Christie. Ron Brown. The list goes on.

Add Darryl Anderson to the list.

The Harlem-born Anderson is an accomplished musician from an accomplished family: his uncle was a recording artist in the 1960s and cousin is a multi-instrumentalist, including jazz saxophone.  Earlier this year, Darryl Anderson was the featured saxophonist on the five-day One Love Gospel Cruise.

On his new CD, You Are, Anderson interprets popular gospels, hymns and his own compositions in the smooth jazz style, from Mary Mary’s “Seattle” to Fanny Crosby and W. Howard Doane’s “Do Not Pass Me By.”

Rather than go through the motions, Anderson and his crew lay down some untraditional rhythms for traditional church chestnuts “Do Not Pass Me By” and “The Blood.” Anderson gives the former a world music vibe by adding sultry Middle Eastern riffs on what sounds like soprano sax.

Hearing Sophia Green’s vocal contribution, alternately vulnerable and insistent, on the concluding “I Got a Praise,” one wishes she appeared more often in the project, especially on some of the latter tracks that lacked the strong, melodic distinctiveness of the album's earlier selections.

Nevertheless, You Are is a pleasant listening experience, especially for fans of gospel jazz or just straight-up smooth jazz.

Three of Five Stars

Picks: “I Got a Praise.”

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"Can't Live" - Genita Pugh

“Can’t Live”
Genita Pugh
genitapugh.net

Pastor Genita Pugh of Laurel, Mississippi takes it easy and slow on “Can’t Live,” a restrained praise ballad during which the singer, who is also founder and pastor of Original Worship Ministry, shares how she cannot breathe or even live without Jesus.

Unlike her “Holy to the Lamb,” which is incendiary and traditional, this piece is calm and contemporary, introspective. It stands fine on its own, but I prefer her “Holy to the Lamb” for its rootsy, straight-to-the-gut simplicity.

Rev. Johnny L. Jones: The Hurricane that Hit Atlanta (Video)

Thanks to Dustin Chambers, assistant photo editor for Creative Loafing Atlanta, for sending TBGB this video of Rev. Johnny L. Jones, "the hurricane that hit Atlanta."

Rev. Jones was the subject of an excellent two-disc set released last year on Lance Ledbetter's Dust-To-Digital label.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

"Nobody's Fault But Mine" - Henry Horne

“Nobody’s Fault But Mine”
Henry Horne
From the forthcoming Individuality Entertainment CD My House
(CD scheduled for release in January 2012)
Single available at: henryhorne.bandcamp.com

“Nobody’s Fault But Mine” was written, produced and sung by Philadelphia-born Henry Horne, who founded the R&B group T.H.S., aka The Horne Section.

The single finds Horne in his prayer closet, ruminating on his life, calling on the Lord to not count him out, but concluding that if he doesn’t make it in, “there’s no reason or no one to blame…ain’t nobody’s fault but mine.”

The song has such a distinctive ‘70s laid-back soul feeling to it, that when Horne punctuates the some lines with a staccato reading, it sounds as if fellow Philadelphians the Blue Notes were his music teachers.

Monday, October 24, 2011

TBGB Pick of the Week: October 24, 2011

“Tell God Yes”
Levi Stewart
Goldstreet Gospel Entertainment (2011)
www.goldstreetgospel.com

Newcomer record label Goldstreet Gospel seems to have its finger on the pulse of some great gospel singers.

From Todd Dulaney to Jamie Simond and Kevin Gray – and when on earth will church-wrecking vocalist Isalena’s music be released? – they have a solid roster of young, eager, thoughtful talent.

Now Levi Stewart. Singer, songwriter, producer and actor, Stewart has released his debut single, “Tell God Yes.” In a soaring tenor voice, as if shouting to the thunderous heavens, Stewart pleads to Jesus for redemption from anything that’s not like you.” Captivating.

Levi Stewart’s full-length CD is scheduled for release next year.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

WOW Gospel Worship

Various Artists
WOW Gospel Worship
EMI Gospel/EMI Christian Music Group/
Word Entertainment/Verity (2011)
http://www.wowgospelonline.com/

By Bob Marovich for The Black Gospel Blog.

The long-running WOW Gospel Series, which serves as a yearbook of gospel hits, and a couple of new titles tossed in for good measure and greater sales, has extended its brand to include specialty titles, such as the just-released WOW Gospel Worship.

This new disc is a collection of sacred hits whose connecting thread is the praise and worship lyric. The musical accompaniment ranges from the punchy, in-your-face contemporary gospel arrangements of VaShawn Mitchell to Smokie Norful’s simple, expressive vocals on the song-prayer “Dear God,” to Shekinah Glory Ministry’s breakout P&W smash “Praise is What I Do.”

The collection, mined from a few major gospel music labels, spans the past fifteen years: from Fred Hammond’s 1996 “No Weapon” to the present day. Many of the songs are gospel radio staples, such as Kurt Carr’s “In the Sanctuary,” and Byron Cage’s “The Presence of the Lord,” the latter which almost defines the P&W sound.

Others, such as Heather Headley’s part-bluesy, all-marvelous “Here I Am to Worship,” from her under-appreciated masterpiece Audience of One, may turn heads anew. "Great is Your Mercy" from Donnie McClurkin's Live In London and More... is a mesmerizing selection ripe for reacquaintance.  Familiar or not, the titles mix well and provide a fine listening experience from start to finish.

The new titles are rendered by special combinations of gospel artists. Noted as “the top worship song in the United States,” “Mighty to Save” is covered by Myron Butler, Sheri-Jones Moffett and the family band Forever Jones. “Majesty” is performed by a trio of muscular-voiced male psalmists – Deon Kipping, Jason Nelson and William Murphy – who solo as solidly as they harmonize.

WOW Gospel Worship is music for a restful Sunday afternoon.

Four of Five Stars

Saturday, October 22, 2011

"Did It For Me" - Chontella Renee

“Did It For Me”
Chontella Renee
From the forthcoming Tate Music Group CD Humanity Project
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Chontella-Renee-Young-Ivy/159821870618
Granddaughter of blues legend Mighty Joe Young, Chontella Renee (Chontella Young Ivy) pours the essence of her testimony into “Did It For Me,” a breezy contemporary gospel song that sums up how Jesus’ sacrifice of his own life saved hers.

She tells TBGB she wrote the song “while I was in a Cook County jail cell back in Chicago 2002 after being arrested on the west-side streets (Grenshaw & Springfield) as a neighborhood junkie, prostitute and drug-dealer.”

After turning her life over to God and upon her release from prison, Chontella went to school and is now a mental health and addictions counselor in Las Vegas. In 2008, seven years after her arrest, she was ordained a minister. Happily married, “I went through life trying to find out how to be truly loved,” she says. “Now I know true love starts within myself first.”

Behind the Scenes with Trin-i-tee 5:7 (Part Four)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Jawn Murray Presents UNTAPPED

Various Artists
Jawn Murray Presents UNTAPPED
EMI Gospel (2011)
http://www.emigospel.com/

By Bob Marovich for The Black Gospel Blog.

Last February, Jawn Murray, the popular Washington DC-based on-air entertainment reporter for the Tom Joyner Morning Show and a columnist for AOL Black Voices, called all unsigned gospel artists to participate in his UNTAPPED competition.

Produced in partnership with EMI Gospel, UNTAPPED would give unsigned artists a chance to remove the “un” from the adjective in a major way.

The promotion received more than 300 entries from gospel artists, each of whom submitted a single recording for review by an all-star panel of judges. Ten finalists would be placed on a CD compilation and one grand prize winner would, as the legalese stated, be “entitled to enter into an exclusive physical and/or digital recording deal with EMI Gospel.”

Although the grand prize winner will not be announced until next year, the compilation, Jawn Murray Presents UNTAPPED, was released in mid-September.

Among the ten young contemporary gospel artists putting their best audio foot forward on UNTAPPED, the ladies are the shining stars. Detroiter Tasha Page-Lockhart’s “The Love of God” is among the album’s jewels. It’s the kind of bracing, bright, and catchy pop-infused piece that one expects from a Detroit singer. Minneapolis resident Tonia Hughes’ nuanced and intense “Rest on Me” is a gripping praise and worship workout. Madelyn Berry sings the Chris Tomlin P&W anthem “How Great is Our God” with the urgency of South Africa's Queen of Gospel, Rebecca Malope.

Speaking of Berry, TBGB readers will recognize three finalists on the project. Berry, Brian C. Reeves & Heart After God and F’Lana have each graced the blog in the past.

UNTAPPED is full of youthful energy and creativity, and it will be exciting to find out who is selected as grand prize winner, though EMI Gospel can’t go wrong with any of the ten. Meanwhile, a lyric from F’lana’s “2nd Chance,” which closes the comp, articulates what the finalists must be thinking: “If not now, then when? If not me, then who?”

Four of Five Stars

“The Love of God,” “Rest on Me.”

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Micah Stampley - One Voice

Micah Stampley
One Voice
Music World Gospel/Interface Entertainment (2011)
http://www.musicworldent.com/

By Bob Marovich for The Black Gospel Blog.

“Different colors, many expressions/But when we worship, we sing to an audience of one.”

So sings Micah Stampley, his vocal arms outstretched, like Bono, in universal embrace on the title track and current single of his new CD One Voice.

The lyric encourages world unity around one Creator, but it also works as a description of the multi-culturalism of Stampley's new album, released yesterday.  It deftly and seamlessly blends gospel vocal techniques with the optimism of CCM melodies and the largesse of pop-rock musicianship.

As such, you could say that One Voice is the album the crooner was destined to produce since his introduction to the gospel community seven years ago via Bishop T.D. Jakes.  Stampley himself must feel that; he writes in the liner notes, "I'm so excited to share what I believe to be my greatest work EVER."

Throughout the project, Stampley’s marvelous voice soars over tuneful, majestic praise and worship songs such as the opening “Heaven on Earth” and the hypnotic “Overcome,” which created such a peaceful aura of collective worship in the recording studio that the succeeding “Worthy” was created organically on the spot.

And here’s the rub: while One Voice was recorded in only four days, its production is sufficiently complex that it sounds as if it took months to complete. From the new age ambience of “Prophetic Interlude” – Stampley’s wife Heidi contributes Enya-like vocals – to the P&W anthem “Search for You” and the U2-style layered guitars of “Call of Love,” plenty of thinking went into the creation of the album’s textures. Violins, flutes, piano, all swirl in a multi-faceted soundscape that is as pleasant to perceive as it is difficult to define.

Although most of the selections are, to use Stampley's own terminology, "vertical" in lyric content, he has included a couple of message songs. In addition to the title track’s ode to brotherhood, “Desperate People” offers a glimpse of humanity in lockstep agreement of being “tired of the status quo…gotta be more than this.” Hearing this track, one cannot help but think of the protesters on Wall Street or the vanishing heroes in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. On the other hand, “Call of Love” is an ode to the power of giving of one’s self to others and could serve as the soundtrack to the Stampley’s Operation I Believe, which provides life essentials to the homeless and destitute.

It is possible that years from now cultural historians and musicologists will look back at the work of Israel Houghton, Kurt Carr and Micah Stampley, the latter as expressed in One Voice, and see the roots of the future of sacred popular music. For now, just listen, enjoy and be moved.

Four of Five Stars

Picks: “One Voice,” “Heaven on Earth.”

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Forty Years Later, The Sounds of Blackness is Still Flying High


By Bob Marovich for The Black Gospel Blog.

This evening at 6:00 p.m., at the Mall of America’s Best Buy Rotunda in Bloomington, Minnesota, Malaco Music Group Recording Artists the Sounds of Blackness will be hosting a free 30 minute concert.

It is one of the activities surrounding the release of the group’s tenth CD, which hits stores today.

The Sounds of Blackness’s eclecticism and versatility over the past forty years have garnered three GRAMMY Awards and a host of other accolades.

TBGB spoke with the group's founder, Gary Hines (G), and featured vocalist Jamecia Bennett (J) as they reflected on the group’s journey from Twin Cities college choir to international acclaim.

TBGB: What was the seed that brought Sounds of Blackness into being?

G: In the late sixties, my alma mater, Macalester College, embarked on an ambitious project called EEO – Expanded Educational Opportunities – to recruit students of color. EEO was successful, and among its offshoots were a number of student-created organizations. One was a fifty-voice choir called the Macalester College Black Voices. In 1971, I was blessed to have the group bring me on as director. We changed the name to Sounds of Blackness, because even then we wanted to do every style of African American music and needed a name to reflect that.

TBGB: What critical moment in history brought the group to everyone’s attention?

G: First and foremost, it happened by the grace of God, but the vehicle that took it to the next level were our friends, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who made us the first artists signed to their record label, Perspective Records, in 1990. What we were doing on a local, regional and sometimes on a national level became completely national and international through Perspective, A&M Records and Polygram Distribution.

TBGB: How did the gospel community embrace Sounds of Blackness?

G: We have always enjoyed support from the gospel community, and we have also experienced criticism from day one. We talk to different artists like Kirk Franklin and Mary Mary who have experienced the same thing, and to some degree still do, and I remind them, and myself, that Mahalia Jackson, the unquestioned Queen of Gospel, got grief when she started. People thought she had too much beat or she sounded too bluesy. I figure if the Queen of Gospel can catch heat, we can catch some too!

TBGB: Speaking of great singers, how did Ann Nesby get involved with Sounds of Blackness?

G: Ann joined us around 1989 and was a part of Sounds of Blackness productions, such as The Night Before Christmas, a Martin Luther King concert called Music for Martin, and Evolution of Gospel which, before it was a CD, was a stage production. But our families go back to the sixties. Ann’s mother and father are ministers from the Rockford (IL) and Joliet (IL) area. Ours were sister churches. Then leap ahead to the late eighties: [her sister] Marie is already a member, and Ann comes on and that’s how she started.

TBGB: Jamecia, tell us about your background.

J: I am the daughter of the former lead singer, Ann Nesby, and am also an actress, producer, and singer-songwriter. I started in the Sounds of Blackness when I was seventeen, so I’ve been in the group around twenty years.

TBGB: Had you always wanted to be a singer?

J: I don’t know if I always wanted to be a singer, but I was born into it. I started singing at church and directing the choir when I was four years old. My grandfather was a minister, my father was a minister, my uncles were ministers, so I was a PK [pastor's kid]. I grew up in the church; it was just who I was. But at fourteen years old, if I had had the chance to not do [music] ever again, I probably would have said yes, because my friends were outside playing and I was at the piano learning harmony and learning how to play drums. Today, however, I totally appreciate it!

TBGB: Sounds of Blackness has traveled all over the world. Has there been a particularly memorable trip?

J: For me, it would be Japan. I didn’t get a chance to go on the Africa trip, but that trip seems to be the most memorable for the rest of the group.

G: There hasn’t been a place that we’ve gone that we haven’t loved, but Africa was special, especially after singing about it for so many years. We went there with Stevie Wonder to the Pan African Festival. When we got there, to have them tell us, “Welcome home,” it was just extra-special.

TBGB: Talk about the new CD.

G: We put the [self-titled] project together in about ten months. It energized the group to work on so many different styles of music. We always try to be versatile, but this is yet another level of that.

The zulu word ubuntu, or “humane-ness,” is one of the central concepts of the album, but the album is also about inspiration and healing. For example, Jamecia is the primary writer, featured vocalist and producer of the current single, “Fly Again.” It is an optimistic song in the midst of war, economic downturn, bankruptcy, layoffs, and unemployment. In the midst of this, people need something to inspire them. That’s the essence of what this record is all about: to inspire people.

TBGB: What do you want listeners to come away with when they hear the new album?

G: The best thing we can hear is for someone to say that our music helped save their life, or their friend’s life, or helped them when they were in an abusive relationship, or helped bring them closer to God. We treasure the awards, but ultimately, we want those kinds of things to happen.

TBGB: Have people come to sacred music through the Sounds of Blackness?

G: Absolutely. Let me tell you a story. We were in London about a year and a half ago. It was near the end of a concert and we were doing “Optimistic,” which is our standard. I could see a young woman in the midst of the crowd straining to get to the stage. I’ll never forget it. She handed me a handwritten note. I looked at it, even though we were still playing, because she had this look of urgency on her face. On the note she had written, “My mother died. ‘Optimistic’ saved my life.” I mean…what else can you say?

TBGB: Is there a style of music, or type of performing art, that the group hasn’t yet done but would like to do someday?

J: I think one of our songs should be in a completely different language, like Japanese. I think we should attempt something like that. It would be powerful.

G: I totally agree, Jamecia! We’ve been blessed to work in different musical genres. On the country side, we’ve worked with Vince Gill and Dolly Parton and Lyle Lovett. On the rock side, with Sting and John Mellencamp. On the classical side, with the Cleveland Philharmonic and the Minnesota Orchestra. We’ve done world beat. We haven’t done heavy metal [laughs], but I agree, a complete track in a foreign language would be awesome.

TBGB: Besides promoting the new album, what is next for Jamecia Bennett and Sounds of Blackness?

J: I recently produced six tracks for [BET Sunday Best winner] Le’Andria Johnson and just flew back from Texas where I produced her Christmas album, which will be out this Christmas. I’m also on stage right now, doing The Rocky Horror Show, while I’m still giving 100 percent to Sounds of Blackness.

G: We’re looking to do the Sounds of Blackness Christmas show and, if not this year, in 2012 we want the Christmas show to tour nationally. Also, our new label, Malaco, is excited about Jamecia, as they should be, and also about maybe doing a generational track or CD: starting with Jamecia’s grandmother, who we call lovingly “Sister Bennett” – she can still sing, trust me! And then Ann who is phenomenal, Jamecia, Paris Bennett [finalist on American Idol, Season 5] who is Jamecia’s daughter. Remember the song, “Little Egypt?” Well, there’s a little one called Egypt, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that talent doesn’t flow down to her as well!

For more information, go to http://www.malaco.com/and http://www.soundsofblackness.com/.

Watch the video for “Fly Again,” featuring Jamecia Bennett:

Monday, October 17, 2011

Behind the Scenes with Trin-i-tee 5:7 (Part Three)

TBGB Pick of the Week: October 17, 2011

“I Love to Praise Him”
Mississippi Mass Choir
From the Malaco CD …Then Sings My Soul (2011)
www.malaco.com

You have to love the gritty authenticity of Mosie “Mama” Burks (pictured left) as she leads the Mississippi Mass Choir on “I Love to Praise Him,” a neo-traditional congregational sing and clap along.

Burks channels the Mother of Gospel Music, Sallie Martin, in her strident, no-holds-barred delivery, while the choir channels their gospel chorus predecessors in its supercharged response.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Trish Standley - Redemption

Trish Standley
Redemption
(private press)

By Bob Marovich for The Black Gospel Blog.

Redemption presents the listener with an unspoken assignment: which side of gospel singer-songwriter Trish Standley do you like best?

Is it the bright, chirpy and optimistic R&B side, exemplified on the hard-charging opening track, “Cheer Up,” and the disco-fueled “Love?”

Or do you prefer the charmingly sugar-sweet CCM-tinged singer who croons on “Because of You,” the pretty “Remember Me,” and the ode to discipleship, “Here I Am?”

Maybe it’s Standley’s jazzier shade that captures your attention, as she hangs loosely with a small combo on “He Lives,” and “For We Know”?  On the latter, co-producer Carlton “C-DUB” Whitfield overdubs his vocals into complex harmonies reminiscent of Take 6.

Regardless, there’s something for everyone to enjoy on Redemption, because Standley has a cozy pop voice that, like a chameleon, blends with everything.  True to her roots – although she now lives in Georgia, she grew up in a COGIC church in Kokomo, Indiana – Standley is not afraid to integrate sacred lyrics with a variety of contemporary musical forms.

To my ears, Standley’s small combo jazz experiments produce the album’s most memorable moments, and I hope she considers doing an entire CD of gospel jazz someday.  Still, the juice club-ready “Cheer Up,” and invigorating trance beats of “Jesus Praise” are what catches the ear on first listen.  For “Jesus Praise,” Standley gets throatier, almost Bey-like in her monotonic urgency, delivering a subconscious affirmation of Gen Y’s preferred praise methodology.

The lyrics on Redemption are almost uniformly personal praise and worship oriented, with “Love” having the best take-away: being Christ-like means not being stingy with one’s love but giving it away universally.

Regardless of what style you prefer, Redemption is pleasant listening because Trish Standley’s voice is pleasant listening in every shade.

Four of Five Stars

Picks: “Jesus Praise,” “Cheer Up.”

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Shirley Murdock - Live: The Journey

Shirley Murdock
Live: The Journey
Tyscot Records (available October 18, 2011)
http://www.tyscot.com/

By Bob Marovich for The Black Gospel Blog.

Shirley Murdock invigorates her first live recording, Live: The Journey, with the atmosphere of an old fashioned revival.

Live: The Journey finds Murdock sassily interjecting Shirley Caesar-style evangelism and mother wit before, during and after song selections. One can almost feel Murdock cuddling in with her audience to comfort, caution, empathize with, and exhort them all to higher ground. Her down-to-earth, straight talk is complemented by bluesy gospel readings of selections, such as the sweetly soulful “It’s In Your Hands,” which guides listeners over the rough patches by telling them to put their troubles in God’s hands.

An abundance of powerful female vocalists stops by to assist Murdock, most notably Beverly Crawford, who on the rollicking “He is the Rock” delivers what Murdock calls “good old hand-clapping, foot-stomping church.” Yes, indeed: by the conclusion, the assemblage teeters on the edge of a praise break.

Another of Murdock’s girlfriends, Regina Belle, blends her bluesy vocals to Murdock’s on “Upward Way,” and Kelly Price takes the platform on “Keep Lovin’ Me.”

On “Lord You Reign,” Murdock turns to a cool-down, hypnotic praise and worship mode, followed by the contemporary “Rejoice Come On.” Both seemed out of place in an otherwise churchy atmosphere, and I wondered what was to come next.  My apprehension was sated when Murdock returned to the gutsy on “God Can Do Anything,” which riffs on the old church saying that “God can do anything but fail.”

Several inspirational ballads round out the project. “Dream,” the current single, is joined by the encouraging “Winner in Me.” “Someday” features les quatre femmes – Murdock, Crawford, Price and Belle – seeking  world cooperation during these days of social ills. The four harmonizing on stage together provides enough energy to run a small town for one day, and suggests they take their gospel show on the road as the female variation of the famed “Three Tenors.”

Live: The Journey is given solid and sensitive production by Cedric Thompson and while I would have liked to have heard louder crowd responses throughout the project, the companion DVD should provide plenty of audience visuals.

Shirley Murdock is a lovable gospel singer and her effusive personality and genuine spirit shine through on Live: The Journey.

Four of Five Stars

“Dream,” “He is the Rock.”

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Celebration of Giving!

Prestigious 1 - "Living the Life"

“Living the Life”
Prestigious 1
T1MG: The One Music Group (2011)

North Carolina-Based Prestigious 1 is Min. Quincy W. King, Sr.; Will R. “Big Will” Jones II.; and Maurice Robinson. The three men sing with a contemporary flavor, like Commissioned meets Men of Standard.

Their “Living the Life” is a friendly and positive testimony, led by warmly stoked vocals and propelled forward by a brassy, bouncy R&B tempo. The lyrics are about living the life they sing about. Musically, the optimistic chorus evokes the Esquires’ “Get On Up,” but at high speed.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Micah Stampley: One Voice, Many Expressions

By Bob Marovich for The Black Gospel Blog.

A week from today, gospel artist Micah Stampley will release his new album, One Voice, on Matthew Knowles’ Music World Gospel imprint. Recorded in four days, the album explores a variety of musical realms.

Micah told TBGB that his audience may not be as familiar with his  multi-layered side, but after learning about the man, this side is not at all surprising. Track and field sprinter, model and actor, musician and singer-songwriter, and now social entrepreneur, Micah is as multi-textured as his music.

Micah Stampley was born in Los Angeles, the fifth of nine children, but his family moved back to their hometown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana when he was still an infant. Micah's grandfather, James Stampley, Sr., was pastor of Nazarene Church of God in Christ in Baton Rouge, and once traveled the country preaching alongside COGIC founder Bishop Charles H. Mason.

At age seven, little Micah made a big impression on Nazarene COGIC when he directed the church choir. He recalled, “They would pick me up and stand me on top of the offering table, because nobody could see me! So here’s this little seven year-old kid teaching parts to the choir. You have a soprano and alto who are singing the wrong note, and he’s correcting them! They’re looking like, ‘Who’s this little kid telling me I’m singing the wrong part!’”

Growing up, Micah enjoyed the music of traditional gospel singers such as Shirley Caesar and the Mighty Clouds of Joy, as well as contemporary artists such as the Winans, Andrae Crouch, Daryl Coley, and the Hawkins Family.

He added, “And of course, growing up in the Church of God in Christ, everything outside of gospel was a sin! I discovered other music when I was riding the school bus. I would hear Prince, Michael Jackson, Billy Ocean, Cyndi Lauper, and all those kinds of sounds, and I thought, ‘Man, this stuff can’t be too bad!’”

Micah returned to California in 1994 to pursue careers in modeling and acting. His associates encouraged him to sing R&B and pop, but he was not persuaded. “I’d been singing all my life, and I wanted to explore other things outside of music.”

Still, he had an inkling his career would come down to “either music or the Olympics,” since he had achieved success as a track and field sprinter, running the 4 x 100 relay, the 200 meter, the 100 yard dash and the long jump.

But music won over, “organically,” Micah said, while he was a church musician in Houston.

Micah was assistant music minister at St. Agnes Baptist Church in Houston when Marcus Dawson, Bishop T.D. Jakes’ musician, was asked to fill in for the church’s ailing minister of music. When Marcus heard Micah sing, he relayed his enthusiasm to Bishop Jakes. But it wasn’t until after Micah won the Stellar Awards Talent Search in 2004 that he was invited to sing for Bishop Jakes and the Potter’s House.

One Sunday in February, he and wife Heidi journeyed to the Potter’s House, and literally turned the house out. In fact, during the second service, Micah sang so hard that “the power of God fell in that place. Bishop Jakes couldn’t preach. He had to have the Media Department play his sermon from the first service on the big screen, and he sat down.” From there, Micah earned a slot on Bishop Jakes’ 2004 compilation He-Motions and gospel music became his primary pursuit.

One Voice
Now, seven years and several albums later, Micah is set to release One Voice.

“It’s a multi-cultural album,” Micah explained. “Every race, every nationality, everyone can get something from this record.” The album contains different styles and textures that the artist has wanted to explore for some time. “People are not used to hearing me do anything else but the high energetic gospel pieces.”

But Micah is all about musical diversity. He’s especially pleased that the praise and worship style is catching on. “The praise and worship movement is really beginning to grow in the gospel community,” he said. We still sing songs about our struggles and downfalls, but on the CCM side, the music is more vertical, and I now hear gospel artists embracing that sound. For me, it’s so refreshing, because this is something I’ve done for quite some time. If you listen to my music, I’ve never done anything that talks about my struggles, because I believe if we worship God and give Him our all, He already knows what we need. If we develop that [vertical] mindset in the gospel community, you will hear more music like that coming from gospel artists.”

One of Micah’s personal favorites on the new album is “Overcome.” During the recording process, “the worship experience with that song took over and we literally wrote another song right after it. They flow into one another on the record, and so we just called [the second song] “Worthy!”

Operation I Believe
In addition to being being marriage partners, Micah and Heidi are now social entrepreneurs. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the couple formed a nonprofit organization called Operation I Believe.

“Heidi and I bought a bunch of gas cards and were handing them out to people who needed money to buy gas. We partnered with construction companies to get sheet rock to help people rebuild their homes. We went to a food distribution center and boxed enough food to feed around 20,000 people. That’s what we love to do.”

This past winter, Heidi and Micah bought huge cans of chicken soup and cooked it, bottled it, purchased blankets, scarves and gloves, and gave them to the homeless living under Houston’s bridges. “We gave one guy soup and a blanket, and tears began to roll down his eyes. He said, ‘Now I really know that God loves me.’ We cried and wept all the way home.

“Music is the conduit to Operation I Believe,” Micah said. “That’s the heart of the ministry.”

For more information on Micah Stampley and One Voice, visit http://www.musicworldgospel.com/.

Monday, October 10, 2011

TBGB Pick of the Week: October 10, 2011

“Declaration of Praise”
Angela Hearns
From the CD Arise (2011)
www.angelahearns.com

Sampling a preacher to an electric beat: I often thought that would sound cool. Then Paul Simon did it, and now Angela Hearns. And it does sound cool.

Hearns’ “Declaration of Praise” opens with a minister intoning the opening lines of Psalm 34 (“I will bless the lord at all times”) as a chorus of drums resound with the incessant urgency of polyrhythm. Hearns uses the psalm as the message of her song, putting it in the context of today. She sings like a woman with something to say and nothing to lose, her biting vocal a rebuke to the sting of hard times and an exhortation to praise at all times.

Although the California-born singer recorded her first single, “Give Myself to You,” back in 1998, Arise is her first full album.  What does the future hold in store? She replied, “I would love to minister for our troops or minister in disadvantaged places as well. I just want to be about my Father's business. If His business takes me to the White House or to the jail house, so be it.”

Sister Rosetta Tharpe to be Honored with Historical Marker and Film Presentation

PHILADELPHIA (October 3, 2011) – Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915-1973), the pioneering gospel musician, will be honored by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission with the dedication of an Historical Marker at her former North Philadelphia home (1102 Master Street) on Monday, October 24, 2011 at 1:00PM.

In addition, on this day, there will be a free film presentation of the recently released documentary, The Godmother of Rock & Roll: Sister Rosetta Tharpe, in the Central Philadelphia Library (1901 Vine Street) auditorium at 7:30PM. The film is produced and directed by Mick Csaky.

These events are being sponsored by Girls Rock Philly (GRP), a local music and mentoring non-profit organization, and The Friends of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the committee responsible for funding the Historical Marker.

Beth Warshaw-Duncan, Executive Director of GRP, notes: “We’re really thrilled to be part of these events and share the mission of making Sister Rosetta Tharpe even more known, especially to younger audiences.”

Sister Rosetta Tharpe was gospel music’s first superstar and its original crossover artist. She brought spiritual music into the mainstream with a blend of blues, jazz, big band, and rhythm & blues. Her ringing soprano voice and guitar virtuosity set her apart from other greats of gospel’s Golden Age. Rosetta toured and recorded with Louis Jordan, Count Basie, Cab Calloway, Benny Goodman, and Sammy Price. Her collaborations with Marie Knight formed one of gospel’s biggest acts. Her charismatic stage presence influenced many popular musicians—in particular, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Little Richard. Her tours of Europe helped to spark the British blues revival.

In 1957, Rosetta Tharpe and her husband, Russell Morrison, moved to Philadelphia, joining the lively gospel scene that included the Dixie Hummingbirds and Ward Singers. She was a first-generation resident in the historic Yorktown neighborhood, and a member of Bright Hope Baptist Church. From Philadelphia, she did some of her finest recordings, releasing five LPs and gaining a Grammy nomination with her 1968 album, Precious Memories. In 1998, the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp in her honor. She is a member of the International Gospel Music Hall of Fame, and the Blues Hall of Fame. Sister Rosetta Tharpe rests today at Northwood Cemetery in Philadelphia.

To RSVP for the event, please visit: http://grp.ticketleap.com/sister-rosetta-tharpe/.


The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) is the official history agency of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Created in 1945, The PHMC’s mission is to preserve the Commonwealth’s memory as a teacher and champion of its heritage for citizens of Pennsylvania and the nation. www.phmc.state.pa.us.

Girls Rock Philly is a nonprofit, volunteer-run organization dedicated to empowering girls and women from the greater Philadelphia region through summer music camp education programs and activities that foster self-respect, leadership skills, creativity, self-expression, critical thinking and collaboration. www.girlsrockphilly.org

Behind the Scenes with Trin-i-tee 5:7 (Part Two)

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Wintley Phipps - My Greatest Romance

Wintley Phipps
My Greatest Romance
Coral Records (2011)

By Bob Marovich for The Black Gospel Blog.

For Trinidad and Tobago native Wintley Phipps, his greatest romance is with his God.

That statement sets the mood for his latest album, My Greatest Romance, which consists of love songs to God, or as he infers on the opening track, “Heart Songs” (interestingly, also a term Prof. Dorsey sometimes used in the 1930s to describe his new gospel songs).

For couples seeking inspirational music for their wedding, and there are many of them, the album’s selections are nuptials-ready.

What Phipps presents on My Greatest Romance is not a gospel album in the typical sense but rather a smooth jazz/easy listening worship project; for example, popular smooth jazz saxophonist Kirk Whalum contributes to three of the tracks. The result is a professional, polished, pleasant and balladic effort.

Although his university training is in ministry, Phipps is an accomplished singer who sounds as if his degrees are in vocal music. He employs his dense, bold baritone to croon softly like George Benson or belt out big notes like a Broadway vocalist. He also wrote all the songs on the album, and they are, for the most part, quite impressive. “A Love Like This,” in fact, is an extraordinary commercial composition, and it wouldn’t surprise me if smooth jazz vocalists snap this one up.

Arguably the strongest performances on the album are the two duets: Phipps with CeCe Winans on “I Promise to Love You” and with Jennifer Holliday on “Call Me." The two ladies are good choices, given the delicacy of the music, with the Winans/Phipps duet the stronger of the two.

The album would have been even better had there been less ballads and more uptempo pieces towards the end. Nevertheless, My Greatest Romance conjures a quiet inspirational storm that will appeal to those who like their sacred music on the softer side.

Four of Five Stars

Picks: “I Promise to Love You,” “A Love Like This.”

Friday, October 07, 2011

Dr. Andrew Cheairs & the Songbirds - Makeover

Dr. Andrew Cheairs & the Songbirds
Makeover
Emmanuel Records (2011)

By Bob Marovich for The Black Gospel Blog.

On his new CD Makeover, Dr. Andrew Cheairs sings with the gut-wrenching intensity of a man given a second chance.

And he was.

Shortly before Christmas 2010, Rev. Cheairs was involved in an automobile accident and suffered a punctured lung and broken bones. Recovery was slow but sure, and although I am not certain whether the new album was recorded before or after the accident, some of the song titles, such as “1 More Day,” “God Will,” and “Grateful,” seem to bear witness to his grateful attitude anyhow.

Cheairs and the Songbirds are known for their church-wrecking traditional quartet performances, but on Makeover, they go above and beyond their usual power, making this one of the best quartet recordings this year. The album even deserves a nod for having one of the more notable covers of 2011: a sepia-toned photo of an old-fashioned river baptism.

Makeover is resplendent with extended performances and vamps, and Cheairs’ explosive hard-shouting lead is omnipresent. The meaty title track has a driving mid-tempo beat and hooks the listener with a quintessentially down-home quartet lyric, “I’ve got a makeover/Since Jesus took over.”

Additionally, “Let’s Praise the Lord” is fun in a Rance Allen Group sort of way. A slow and bluesy version of the congregational song “I Know It was the Blood” evolves into a call-and-response that somewhat evokes the lyric playfulness of Inez Andrews’ solo on the Caravans’ classic “Mary, Don’t You Weep.”

After the vocal thunder and lightning, the group cools it down for “Journey,” the concluding cut. Here they muse on how “this is not an easy journey; sometimes things get a little rough.” They “have been singing for fifty-two long years/Sometimes shedding sweat and crying many tears” (remember the group’s 1971 single for Style Wooten’s Designer imprint?).  They conclude, “We’ve come a long way, but we’ve got a long way to go….we’ve got to keep on singing.” Their fans sure hope so.

Four of Five Stars

Picks: “Makeover,” “Let’s Praise the Lord.”

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

"It's Amazing" - Kenny Andrews

“It’s Amazing”
Kenny Andrews
From the New Creation Records CD New Creature (2011)
http://www.kennyandrews.com/

From Spokane, Washington, Kenny Andrews is the son of First Lady Doris and Rev. Dr. Chester Andrews, the latter a member of the Golden Echoes quartet.

In 2007, after a career singing pop music, Andrews rededicated his singing to God and, with manager Judy Smith and Chester Andrews of Mutek Productions, organized New Creation Records for this purpose.

On “It’s Amazing,” a nice-and-easy single from his forthcoming album New Creature, Andrews delivers a soulful and personal testimony to the power of God’s blessings on his life: in what he has received and what he has been delivered from. His sharp, biting tenor melds well with Angie Andrews, who provides the chirping female background vocal on the chorus.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Grounded in Tradition, Judith Christie McAllister Embraces the Future

By Bob Marovich for The Black Gospel Blog.

Think of Judith Christie McAllister and chances are "praise and worship" comes to mind.  After all, she's known as the "First Lady of Praise & Worship."

But as McAllister explained to TBGB shortly after the release of her new CD, Sound the Trumpet (Shanachie), her musical roots are steeped in the classics and sacred hymnody.

TBGB: I understand your father was from Jamaica and your mother was from Barbados. Did the music of your parents’ home countries influence your musical style in any way?

JCM: Oh, absolutely, absolutely! But growing up in a Caribbean household did not prevent me from being influenced also by the classics, which is what I primarily studied as a child. I was trained classically in piano and didn’t venture into gospel music until I became a teenager.

My mother would only let us listen to hymns and standard sacred music. There was a family radio station where I grew up that used to play a lot of a cappella hymns. That was the only music my mother would allow us to listen to. Thank God she did, because it gave me such a rooted and firm approach to music.

TBGB: Who in gospel music did you listen to as a teenager?

JCM: There were so many: Andrae Crouch, Walter Hawkins, James Cleveland, Albertina Walker, Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin and some of the up-and-coming artists, such as a choir director from Hempstead, New York named Benny Cummings. He’s since passed away, but he was very influential in the late '70s and the early '80s with a new choir sound. I always wanted to have an opportunity to influence music the way he did.

TBGB: How did you become associated with the West Angeles Church of God in Christ?

JCM: I was singing on a daily television program at Oral Roberts University and my husband – at the time he was my fiancĂ© – was one of the guest coordinators for the show, which meant he would pick up artists and guests and accommodate them while they were there for the program. One day my husband picked up Bishop [Charles] Blake [Pastor of West Angeles COGIC]. They began to converse and Bishop Blake asked him about his plans for the future. He said there were a number of things he'd like to do, but he didn’t have anything firm at the moment. So Bishop invited him to be his personal aide. Of course, since I was soon to be married to him, I came along. A couple of years later, he left to work for the police department and I stayed. He was at West Angeles two years and I was there for eighteen!

TBGB: Going back to your experience at Oral Roberts University, is that where you got into the praise and worship style?

JCM: When I arrived on campus in August of 1985, I was familiar with praise and worship but not the contemporary style that I learned at Oral Roberts University, by having the opportunity to sing on the television show and hearing others perform on the show.

TBGB: Has your musical style evolved over the years?

JCM: Yes, it has, but it still remains grounded in the roots of tradition. Not in the sense of being rigid, but in the roots of the hymns and sacred music. I have at least one hymn or sacred song on all of my projects. That’s important to me: to not only reach my generation but also to reach back and give something to the generation before me…and give something to the generation ahead of me that they can identify with.

TBGB: Your new album, Sound the Trumpet, was recorded before your life was beset by some personal challenges. What goes through your mind when you listen to the recording now?

JCM: I was just telling a friend, "You can’t hate my glory if you don’t know my story." When I listen to the album, that’s what I’m thinking: that God in His sovereignty knew that this time in my life would take place, and He prepared me. He gave me songs that I can refer back to, to see the faithfulness of God, to see that He doesn’t leave a worshipper in the dark.

TBGB: What are the most meaningful tracks on the album for you?

JCM: “Sound the Trumpet,” “Thank You for the Healing,” and “Nobody Like the Lord.”

TBGB: On “Just For Who You Are,” you sing with Nancey Jackson Johnson. I feel it is the best song on the project and Nancey is an underappreciated gospel singer. Singers and musicians know who she is, but the general public doesn’t necessarily know. How did this song come into being?

JCM: It came to me in bits and pieces. I remember driving home one day from working out at the "Y" and I just began to think of God’s goodness. I began to think of everything He was: “You are my help in times of trouble/You are my strength when I am weak. You are my bread, my daily portion/Everything I need you are.” I began to sing it over and over again and just worship.

A lot of the songs that I write come during those inconspicuous moments, not when I’m sitting at the keyboard and saying, "Okay, I have to write a song." Washing the dishes or doing laundry or working out or, as the southern folks say, "making groceries," are times when those types of songs come.

Then I thought, "Now who can best communicate this song in the way that I feel it?" Nancey was the first face to pop up. Having known Nancey and having fellowshipped with her and mentored her at some level, I knew she was the one.

I concur totally that the world is not yet privy to her awesome talent and I figured since I had this platform, and since people know my name as it relates to praise and worship, that it was my responsibility to open up doors for others that may need a platform, even though Nancey had a project out years ago, a fabulous album.

TBGB: Do you find a lot of your classical training comes into play when you write and sing?

JCM: Absolutely. Chord structure, how things must make sense musically. At the end of “Just For Who You Are,” the vocal chording is not a traditional I-III-V but it has a little jazz influence. I try to do that with a lot of my songs: throw something in there to make the ear go “hmmm!”

TBGB: What can we expect from you in the next few months?

JCM: I want to do another praise and worship project with singers who are as yet unknown to the world but need to be known. I will use my name as a platform so people can be blessed by their ministry.

But I would also like to do a project of hymns – nothing but hymns - and update them a little so the generation coming up – the one ahead of me – can appreciate them.

Hymns like “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” or “It Is Well With My Soul” have meat to them. They have stood the test of time. But for the most part, we don’t sing hymns in our churches anymore. It’s a dying art. I want to restore them in a manner by which new generations can identify with them musically, but also gain the rich heritage of the words.

Judith Christie McAllister’s Sound the Trumpet is available at http://www.shanachie.com/.

On the Road with Le'Andria Johnson

This video captures BET Sunday Best champ Le'Andria Johnson visiting and ministering to several churches in promotion of her Billboard chart-topping debut CD, The Awakening of Le'Andria Johnson (Music World Gospel).

Monday, October 03, 2011

TBGB Pick of the Week: October 3, 2011

“Magnify Him”
Rev. Timothy Wright & Michelle Prather
From the Tymo Gospel Music CD:
The Gospel Music Celebration Pt. 2: Tribute to Bishop G.E. Patterson (available October 4, 2011)

“Magnify Him” is the last recorded performance of Rev. Timothy Wright, but any tears of sorrow are wiped away when Wright and Michelle Prather get to shouting on this powerful traditional-style choir workout, produced by multi-Stellar Award nominated Moses Tyson, Jr. and multi-Grammy Award winner Edwin Hawkins.

A tribute to the late COGIC Bishop G.E. Patterson and recorded live in Memphis, COGIC's home base, "Magnify Him" is as radio-friendly as they come.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

"In Spite of My Sins" - The Gospel Daytonaires

“In Spite of My Sins”
Gospel Daytonaires
On the Gospel Now Volume 2 Compilation
http://www.gospelnow.net/

The Gospel Daytonaires were formed in Orlando, Florida in early 1988 but on “In Spite of My Sins,” they deliver a sound that predates their founding.

The drive-tempo track feels culled from a 1970s 45 rpm: the hard-singing lead singer launches his emotive calls while the mixed quartet harmonizes with steady repetition. The musicians, especially the guitarist and piano player, lay down a quintessentially southern soul gospel foundation.

It is the kind of song that could go on for 10 to 20 minutes. When the spirit is high, maybe it does.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Various Artists: SlingShot 2011 Soundtrack

Various Artists
SlingShot 2011 Soundtrack
Strike the Rock Entertainment
http://www.striketherockentertainment.com/

By Bob Marovich for The Black Gospel Blog.

“We’re a new generation…we say it loud!”

So announces talented newcomer Bria Manaway on “Say it LOUD,” the initial single from the SlingShot 2011 Soundtrack. And she does, they do, and the result is impressive.

According to what sounds like its mission statement, the SlingShot All-City Youth Conference in Tukwila, Washington, “gives youth and young adults the time, tools, teaching, training and transformative experience they need to deepen, grow and sustain their Christian faith.” Ingrid Fields, President of Strike the Rock Entertainment, got the idea to capture some of the flavor of the conference's music and spoken word artists on a compilation CD.

The comp features songs written and co-written by Fields associate and inspirational innovator Michelle Lang.  A theme common to the songs, one that resonates among young people, is the desire to overcome human frailties and be more like Jesus. For example, on her “I’m a Witness,” Lang asserts that she wants to stay close to Him “when the world calls my name.”

While all of the singers are uniformly strong and genuine, two stand out. Seattle's Mark Wagner sings his own composition, “There is Hope,” with the edgy confidence of John Legend while accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. Canadian Morrissa Nicole Brown’s marvelous “What If” evokes Joan Osborne’s “God” when she asks, “What if we are the only Jesus people see?”

Not all the selections are musical. Tia Nache’ offers a clever spoken word piece called "iGod," which raps on the vicissitudes of communicating in an e-world when the real thing is twice as nice.

What the SlingShot 2011 Soundtrack suggests is that Christian/gospel pop, with its messages of encouragement and empowerment, candy-sweet tunes and strong beats, often makes better pop music than pop music.

Four of Five Stars

Picks: “Like Him,” “What If.”