Saturday, March 16, 2013

Rob Mercer - The Photo Album

Rob Mercer
The Photo Album
Kingdom Access Music Group (2012)

By Bob Marovich for The Black Gospel Blog

“Wherever I am in life, I want God to take a snapshot of me.”

Thus says praise and worship leader Rob Mercer.  Indeed, photos capture moments in time, some good and some bad.  Moments captured in time comprise the underlying premise of Mercer’s debut solo album, The Photo Album, released last December.

The lyrics are a cornucopia of ways to describe God’s greatness, a directive Mercer received while “complaining to God” after a painful divorce.  He heard God’s reply: “Instead of telling me your problems, talk about me.  Talk about all I have done for you.”  That is what Mercer does in his songs, although in “Worth It All,” the listener gets a glimpse of the pain behind the praise.  In "God, Be the Center," Mercer seeks God's intercession in global issues of war, poverty, injustice, and health epidemics.

Mercer's photo metaphor extends also to the styles of music that he employs to underpin his praise and worship lyrics.  The CD moves from brisk pop/CCM melodies (“The Rock,” “A Song For You,” and the mesmerizing “Promises”) to mellow acoustic (“At Your Feet” and the especially fine “God Alone”) to urban AC (“More and More,” “Amazingly”).

The two-part “The Marvin Medley” showcases Mercer’s interpretation of Marvin Winans classics, such as “Bring Back the Days of Yea and Nay,” and of soul stylist Marvin Gaye.  He provides a finger-popping, jazzy version of Gaye’s still-relevant rage against the machine, “What’s Going On,” which is the highlight of the album.  "Jennie," Mercer's heartwarming tribute to his mother, will undoubtedly get radio spins on Mother's Day.

As a vocalist, Mercer is reminiscent of Stephen Hurd and Philip Carter, two singers he thanks in the liner notes.  Carter hosted Mercer’s CD release party and included the singer on the Together In Unity: DC Gospel Artists United.

The Photo Album is a string of portraits of the artist at work, using a variety of music palettes, although he seems especially at ease in the urban AC vibe.  A powerfully smooth vocalist, Mercer is a native of Jacksonville, Florida now living in Maryland, where he is praise and worship director at Upper Marlboro’s Antioch Baptist Church. 

Four of Five Stars

Pick: “God Alone”

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