June 24th, 2009
Following (in three parts) are short reviews of several gospel music CD releases from the first quarter of 2009. While there are many others that could and should appear on this list, I chose to present these projects based on a few criteria. For instance, some are highlighted because they present new music from performers who have experienced an extended absence from the industry as recording artists. Other releases were chosen based on their abundant airplay and high placement on chart listings. In addition, some appear as a result of the artist’s presence in the gospel music industry over time. Nevertheless, the aggregate of these artists exemplify gospel music spanning traditional and contemporary styles. My hope is that the reader will identify with at least one of the highlighted CDs, which might lead him/her to explore other projects by the same artists along with those who perform similar styles, thus expanding their knowledge and experience of this religious artistic expression that is gospel music.
Title: Audience of One
Artist: Heather Headley
Label: EMI Gospel
Catalog No.: 5099922651228
Release Date: January 13, 2009
Heather Headley’s new release, Audience of One, might lead some to assume that the R&B singer has crossed over into the gospel music industry. However, given her background (her father was a pastor) as well as her soulful delivery on this project, its apparent that Headley never left the church. Steeped in lush orchestrations and soulful, eclectic grooves, Headley presents a vocal gem consisting of tonal clarity, well placed phrasing, and emotional drive. Put succinctly, she gives thoughtful worshipers a musical vehicle by which they can mull over the goodness of God and the significance of dependence upon Him. For a clear example of her renderings listen to “Simply Redeemed,” “I Need Thee Every Hour,” the churchy “I Know The Lord Will Make a Way” and “Here I Am To Worship.” With special appearances by Smokie Norful and the Tri-City Singers, along with arrangements by Keith Thomas, Marc Harris and Cedric Thompson, Audience of One will resonate across racial, denominational and generational boundaries.
Title: The Law of Confession Part 1
Artist: Donald Lawrence
Format: Enhanced CD
Catalog No.: 886972347325
Release Date: February 3, 2009
Donald Lawrence continues to prove why he is one of gospel’s most sought after artists/producers. With his newest release, Law of Confession, recorded live in Chicago at the Living Word Christian Center, he illustrates in song how words have the power to change life circumstances. The 14 tracks are based on a book and sermon entitled Law of Confessions by Rev. Bill Winston, the pastor of Living Word where Lawrence is a congregant. The title track, “Law of Confession,” sums up the entire album, as Lawrence challenges the live audience to begin speaking the words of the Lord over their lives.
The song “Back II Eden” has also proven to be an enormous hit among the gospel audience, with its message of prosperity promised by God, which allows for “Kingdom people” (Lawrence’s term) to “live on top of the world.” Also very powerful is the rendition of “The Blessing of Abraham,” which was performed as a reflective ballad in contrast to the original up-tempo version recorded by Lawrence in 2006. This ballad style allows for “Kingdom people” to internalize the covenant between God and Abraham as well as his descendants. It is enough to usher the listener into a mode of worship. Every song on this CD could be used as a tool for shifting the mindset of the listener from a state where anything is accepted to a place where one dictates, through the word of God, what his or her life will be. The project is musically excellent and Biblically sound. The Law of Confession is a must have!
Posted by Tyron Cooper
Review Genre(s): Gospel Music and Spirituals