Harlem Gospel Travelers – He’s On Time

 

Title: He’s On Time
Artist: Harlem Gospel Travelers
Label: Colemine
Formats: CD, Vinyl, Cassette, Digital
Release Date: October 11th, 2019

 

He’s On Time is a great introduction to The Harlem Gospel Travelers, a group of young and fresh gospel quartet revival singers from New York City. Eli “Paperboy” Reed, who taught a class in quartet music, first discovered these four young singers: Thomas Gatling, Asher Bethune, Stephen Pedley and George Marage.  As Reed told Billboard in a recent interview, “I’m more satisfied with this than anything else I’ve ever been a part of in my whole life. I think it’s something that could really turn a lot of people’s heads…[who] haven’t heard anything that sounds like this record in however many years—or ever.” Continue reading

The Sensational Barnes Brothers – Nobody’s Fault But My Own

 

Title: Nobody’s Fault But My Own
Artist: The Sensational Barnes Brothers
Label: Bible & Tire/Big Legal Mess
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: September 20, 2019

 

Memphis natives Chris and Courtney Barnes grew up in a musical family steeped in gospel and soul music. Their mother Deborah was a former Raelette (Ray Charles’ background singers) and their father, Calvin “Duke” Barnes, was a local church musician. Together with their four children, the Barnes formed the musical group Joy, and more recently recorded and performed together as the Barnes Family. With this background the Barnes brothers were a perfect fit for producer Bruce Watson, of the newly launched Bible and Tire Recording Co., whose vision is to present contemporary artists performing in “the spirit and sound of the past.” After scouring the catalog of Designer Records, a Memphis-based gospel label now owned by parent company Big Legal Mess, they selected eleven songs from the early 1970s for the Sensational Barnes Brothers’ debut, Nobody’s Fault But My Own. Continue reading

Elizabeth King and the Gospel Souls – The D-Vine Spirituals Recordings

 

Title: The D-Vine Spirituals Recordings
Artist: Elizabeth King and the Gospel Souls
Label: Bible & Tire Recording Co.
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: September 20, 2019

 

In 1960, a newly married Elizabeth King moved 90 miles north of her hometown in Charleston, Mississippi to settle in Memphis, Tennessee. This fortuitous relocation led to a 33-year collaboration with the Gospel Souls, a popular male vocal group in Memphis featuring lead singers Walter Boone and John Powell. Sister Liz King was invited to join the group in 1969 and took over the lead on the majority of songs. According to the liner notes by Nick Loss-Eaton, King had always envisioned being backed by male singers, so this was her dream come true. However, she told the men in no uncertain terms that if they had jealous wives, she would walk. Continue reading

October 2019 Black Music Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during October 2019 across multiple genres—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves. Continue reading

Welcome to the October 2019 Issue

Welcome to the October 2019 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.

Our featured project this month is the new three disc compilation, Protobilly: Minstrel & Tin Pan Alley DNA of Country Music 1892-2017, produced and/or annotated by Dom Flemons, Dick Spottswood, Henry Sapoznik, and David Giovannoni.

Also highlighted are two classical recordings: Richard Thompson’s The Mask in the Mirror – A Chamber Opera and Jamaican-born composer Eleanor Alberga’s String Quartets Nos. 1-3, performed by Ensemble Arcadiana.

This month’s jazz selections include Ramsey Lewis & the Urban Knights seventh album VII, the Chick Corea Trio’s Trilogy 2, and the Louisiana-based Lilli Lewis Project’s multi-genre album We Belong. Gospel releases include John P. Kee’s I Made It Out and a new compilation, Jewell Gospel Trio: Many Little Angels in the Band, featuring a 1950s gospel girl group that included a teenage Candi Staton.

Other new releases include rising Chicago blues musician Toronzo Cannon’s The Preacher, The Politician or The Pimp, spoken word artist/poet Tenesha The Wordsmith’s Peacocks & Other Savage Beasts, the Brooklyn Funk Essentials’s Stay Good, and Vaneese Thomas’s Down Yonder. Wrapping up this issue is our list of September Black Music Releases of Note.

John P. Kee – I Made It Out

 

Title: I Made It Out
Artist: John P. Kee
Label: eOne
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: September 13, 2019

 

Pastor John P. Kee releases yet another spirit filled, “fire baptized,” sanctified and funk-tified album. I Made It Out, Kee’s debut on the eOne Music label, is actually his 26th album release. Building upon the legacy of Kee’s rich musical career that began with his 1987 debut, Yes Lord, his new project features popular gospel artists such as Zachardi Cortez on the hit single “I Made It Out” and Micah Stampley on “Created to Worship.” The album also features the Instagram singing sensations and industry up and comers, Samoht and Ashley Jayy. Continue reading

September 2019 Black Music Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during September 2019 across multiple genres—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.  Continue reading

Kirk Franklin – Long Live Love

 

Title: Long Live Love
Artist: Kirk Franklin
Label: Fo Yo Soul/RCA Inspiration
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: May 31, 2019

 

Kirk Franklin, aka “your uncle, your nephew and your brotha,” released his 12th album Long Live Love, moving gospel music another step forward with its “radical messages.” In many ways, Franklin’s new project mirrors the contemporary sound of his earlier releases such as The Nu Nation Project (1998), the soundtrack to Kingdom Come (2001), and Hero (2005). Songs like “Strong God,” a response to the current state of the world and the need for change, continue Franklin’s inclination to address social issues and is one of the album’s highlights. He also offers uncanny inspiration through tracks such as “Favor/Grace” and “Spiritual,” encouraging listeners to continue living despite what they may have done in their past and sending the message that no matter how you’ve gone astray, “You’re the reason why God made grace.” The lead single, “Love Theory,” perhaps best sums up Franklin’s concept for the album: “one of the weapons to defeat fear is love.” As he shouts at the beginning of the track, “make your next chapter your best chapter!” Continue reading

GMWA Detroit Chapter – Bringing It Back Home

 

Title: Bringing It Back Home
Artist: Gospel Music Workshop of America Detroit Chapter
Label: G.M.W.A. Detroit Chapter
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: September 1, 2018

 

In 1967, Rev. James Cleveland founded the Gospel Music Workshop of America (GMWA) and organized the first national convention the following year at Detroit’s King Solomon Baptist Church. One of the most notable events of that convention was the formation of a 250 member mass choir that marched in singing “We Are on Our Way” by Eugene Dukes of Philadelphia, PA. Now, fifty years later, the GMWA Detroit Chapter celebrates this anniversary with the album, Bringing It Back Home. Recorded live at Second Ebenezer Church with Bishop Greg Davis serving as emcee, the album’s 12 tracks showcase the development of the mass choir movement, from uptempo contemporary worship songs such as “Bless the Lord” and “All is Well” featuring Theresa Moss, to more traditional choral works including  “O King” and “Kept By the Grace of God” featuring Charles Thompson. Representing one of the best mass choirs in the country, the Detroit Chapter blends the secular sounds of the Motor City with the sacred on this fantastic project. A must have for any fan of gospel music! Continue reading

The Lee Boys – Live on the East Coast

 

Title: Live on the East Coast
Artist: The Lee Boys
Label: M.C. Records
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: April 19, 2019

 

Over the past decade, a number of “sacred steel” bands have left the confines of the church to take center stage on the festival circuit. The Lee Boys of Miami, Florida, have emerged as a crowd favorite, as demonstrated by their new release, Live on the East Coast. Recorded in 2018 at three different venues, the album includes live performances of previously released songs as well as a few gems making their first appearance on record. Continue reading

The Tommies Reunion

 

Title: The Tommies Reunion
Artist: The Tommies Reunion
Label: 7 Legend/Journey/Tyscot
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: February 22, 2019

 

The Tommies Reunion has a rich history rooted in the fabric of gospel music.  The original Thompson Community Singers were formed in 1948 in Chicago by legendary gospel musician Rev. Milton Brunson. Named after Brunson’s pastor Rev. Eugene Thompson, they began recording for Vee-Jay records in 1963 at the same time that the Beatles released their first American LP on the historic black-owned label.  They later went on to record for HOB/Scepter Records and Nashboro/Creed Records before joining Word Records (Myrrh/Rejoice) in 1982. Throughout the decades, this ensemble under the direction of Brunson brought the world songs like “I’m Available to You,” “I’ve Tried Him and I Know Him,” “Safe in His Arms” and “I Really Love You Lord,” to name just a few.  After Brunson’s death in 1997, the choir continued to perform and record under the direction of his wife, Joanne Brunson, until 2000 with their Word Records release Real. Continue reading

Earl Bynum – This Song is For You

 

Title: This Song is For You
Artist: Earl Bynum
Label: Tyscot
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: October 5, 2018

 

Earl Bynum’s third solo album, This Song Is For You, is full of great choir and congregational songs featuring the many different textures of modern gospel music. Different from his previous album Open My Heart (2009), Bynum decided to step back from the live stage and do a full studio recorded album. Bynum says of the sessions, “It was different for me … I’m a live concert type of performer… it helped take me out of the choir backdrop and let me live in a new space.” Continue reading

Marietta Simpson – Crooked Stick: Songs in a Strange Land

 

Title: Crooked Stick: Songs in a Strange Land
Artist: Marietta Simpson
Label: Art Salad Productions/Dist. CD Baby
Formats: CD, Digital
Release: February 12, 2019

 

Indiana University professors Tyron Cooper and mezzo-soprano Marietta Simpson have produced a fresh take on the Negro spiritual, the earliest form of Black religious music created by enslaved Black folk during the 18th and 19th centuries in the United States. Crooked Stick: Songs in a Strange, an11-track concept CD produced by Cooper, marks Simpson’s first solo project. The title “Crooked Stick” is derived from the expression to “hit a straight lick with a crooked stick,” which is the act of accomplishing a major feat using meager resources. This adage parallels the plight of African people who were, as Simpson states in her liner notes, “ripped from their native land, sold, beaten, plucked from families, and often treated worse than animals.” Despite such dire circumstances, these captives created new sacred songs, which also housed “clever strategies and hidden messages for survival… The Negro spiritual is therefore a tangible representation of what it means to ‘hit a straight lick with a crooked stick.’ That is, slaves transformed the misery of their daily plantation life (i.e. crooked stick) into something beautiful and creative that would sustain the songs and souls of Black folk for generations to come (i.e. straight lick).” Continue reading

Casey J – The Gathering

 

Title: The Gathering
Artist: Casey J
Label: Tyscot/Integrity Music
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: January 25, 2019

 

Casey J’s music goes beyond the four walls of the church into the mainstream for all to hear and experience the power of Christ through music. Her new album, The Gathering, recorded live in Nashville, is a mixture of gospel, contemporary Christian, country and pop music with broad appeal, which led to a debut at number 11 on the Billboard Top Christian & Gospel Albums Sales chart.  The album’s first single, “If God,” is based on Romans 8:31—“What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” —then segues into her rendition of the hymn, “Nothing But the Blood of Jesus.” Continue reading

The Gospel According to Malaco: Celebrating 75 Years of Gospel Music

 

Title: The Gospel According to Malaco: Celebrating 75 Years of Gospel Music
Artist: Various
Label: Malaco Music Group
Formats: 8 CD box set, Digital
Release date: February 28, 2019

 

Founded by Tommy Couch and Mitchell Malouf in 1968, the Malaco Music Group of Jackson, Mississippi has been “making black music for black people” for 50 years.  World renown for their many iconic Southern soul and rhythm and blues releases and one of the last truly independent labels, Malaco has been called “The Last Soul Company.” However, Malaco has also amassed the largest black gospel catalog in the world. The company began releasing gospel records in the 1970s, but their purchase of the Savoy, Apollo, and Atlanta International labels extended the catalog back to the 1940s. This places Malaco in the perfect position for their ambitious 50th anniversary project, The Gospel According to Malaco: Celebrating 75 Years of Gospel Music. The eight disc anthology covers the history of gospel from the post-WWII-era to the present, through 100 recordings by gospel music’s greatest artists, quartets and choirs. Continue reading

Joshua’s Troop – Another Chance

 

Title: Another Chance
Artist: Joshua’s Troop
Label: New Haven
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: November 23, 2018

 

One of the most amazing things about gospel music is how uniquely it is communicated, depending on the generation.  Joshua’s Troop, fortunately, has the opportunity to speak to this generation of gospel listeners through their high energy and high praise music. Infusing contemporary hip-hop and spoken word elements with familiar gospel sensibilities, Another Chance brings Joshua’s Troop’s message of redemption to today’s youth. Produced and co-written by legendary gospel talent Percy Gray, Jr. (New Direction, Chicago Mass Choir), “Another Chance is electrifyingly eclectic—featuring songs of encouragement, evangelism, repentance, testimony, worship, and even a rousing a cappella piece.” Continue reading

Mr. Del – Black

 

Title: Black
Artist: Mr. Del
Label: Dedicated Music Group
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: December 28, 2018

 

Del Lawrence, aka “Mr. Del,” has come a long way in the hip hop world since his early days with Three 6 Mafia. His religious conversion in 2000 after his first album marked his turn towards Christian/gospel rap, and since that point Mr. Del has devoted his resources primarily to assisting others in need. He is the pastor of Memphis-based City of Refuge Church through which he has created a global podcast and lecture circuit outreach program in order to spread the word of God. Dedicated Music Group (DMG) is his self-founded label company, allowing Del to develop new talent and produce multiple hard-hitting albums each year. Continue reading