Family Prayer

Title: Family Prayer
Artist: The Murrills
Label: Verity
Catalog No.: 82876-87205-2
Release Date: 2008

Donald Lawrence is an incredible producer, as illustrated by Verity’s new release Donald Lawrence Introduces: The Murrills, Family Prayer. The front and back covers of this CD present timely visuals of the six-member Murrill family (5 brothers and 1 sister), showing a unique bond solidified by blood and spirit. The 17 tracks of their debut recording take the listener on an aural journey that captures the reflections of the Murrills, which highlight the social and spiritual dimensions of their lives that serve as a foundation for negotiating, developing and maintaining their familial union. The tracks also bridge the musical gap between the traditional rural worshiper and the contemporary urban gospel ensemble. In addition, the production of this project is in true Lawrence fashion-clear, clean, creative and conscious.

The opening track, “One Mo’ Time” is the Murrills’ reinterpretation of a traditional congregational song, establishing the family as an unbreakable chain. By combining a southern style harmonica with the Murrills’ warm and rounded vocals, triadic harmonies, and the sound effect of a gramophone record, this song creates the feel of a country home permeated with the supernatural gift of love. “Better” flips the script by incorporating a groove palette from the ‘70s funk era. While the musical foundation of this track is centered in the past, the lyrics project the listener into the future: “What’s to come is better than what’s been.” These lyrics also foretell the nature of this project, as the Murrills venture through various groove, harmonic, melodic and thematic shifts.

Executive producers Donald Lawrence and James “Jazzy” Jordan, along with other esteemed producers on this project-including Percy Bady, JP Morton and Tommy Simms-create exceptional instrumental foundations that allow the Murrills to illustrate their eclectic artistic sensibilities. For instance, “Friend of Mine,” produced by Donald Lawrence and Loren McGee, samples Eddie Kendricks’ 1976 single “He’s a Friend.” Roger and Darwin Murrill’s lead vocals on this track frame the struggles and triumphs of their family in a southern soul singing style, which expands the songs’ performance parameters over at least two musical decades (soul and funk).

“How I Feel About You,” written and produced by Percy Bady, is an urban-style ballad consisting of a soulful ostinato guitar lick and a rhythmic sequence layered with handclaps and percussion. These elements create a musical base for the song’s descriptive lyrics and the Murrills’ smooth background and lead vocals that are reminiscent of the singing style of Anthony Hamilton (a contemporary urban R&B/soul singer). “I Declare War,” produced by Tommy Simms, best illustrates the diverse creative tendencies of the Murrills. This track, written by Dwayne Murrill, sounds like someone completed an extensive study of Prince (the secular artist that can’t be nailed down to a stylistic label). Andre Murrill’s lead vocals, his siblings’ background vocals, and the tribal groove and extended harmonic and melodic textures are all derivatives of Prince’s performance style.

While the first two-thirds of this album focus on relationships within the family and their collective and individual connections to God, the final third highlights notions of endurance through both a male and female lens. For instance, “Survive” is Arnetta Murrill’s narrative for the sisters, which asserts that strong faith in God results in a Christian woman’s reality of hope. “Good Days, Bad Days” puts forth a “good” man’s perception of a relationship. In addition, “Can You Stand The Rain?” is a remake of New Edition’s 1989 signature ballad that pulls the man and woman of God together as they ponder the issue of long term suffering.

All of these tracks present superb artistic representations of the social and spiritual dimensions of the Murrills’ lives. However, if you rewind or fast forward to “Family (There’s A Healing),” you will experience a succinct manifestation of this project’s primary focus. That is, the significance of the collective family adhering to God’s powerful ability to mend broken relationships that have plagued the sacred blood unit. Lawrence exemplifies a deep understanding of this resolution by inserting a PDF file of the sheet music for this ballad. The Murrills’ demonstrate their awareness of the value of this song through impeccable word painting, phrasing, tonality and spirit that will pull the heart strings of anyone searching for a religious and musical cure for the seemingly ruined family. In essence, Donald Lawrence and the Murrills’ call for everyone to sing, either by rote or transcription, a new song that ushers in a supernatural healing-The Spirit of God!

Posted by Tyron Cooper