Renee Spearman – I Love Him

 

Title: I Love Him
Artist: Renee Spearman
Label: JDI
Formats: CD, Digital
Release Date: June 7, 2019

 

Billboard-charting gospel singer/songwriter/producer Renee Spearman has worked in the gospel music recording industry for over three decades and continues to champion her genre. After “standing in the shadows” for many years as a background vocalist for numerous popular music artists including Gladys Knight and Yolanda Adams, Spearman’s solo career took off in 2012 with the release of her successful debut album, Whoa to Wow!, which reached #4 on the Billboard gospel album charts. Her recent release, I Love Him, is yet another career highlight.

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Various Artists – Jubilee Showcase

 

Title: Jubilee Showcase
Artist: Various
Label: Time-Life Music
Formats: Digital
Release date: January 17, 2020

 

Chicago was the birthplace of two of the earliest gospel music television series. The half hour syndicated show TV Gospel Time aired on NBC Sunday mornings from 1962-1965, and a 2-DVD set of selected programs was released in 2010 under the title Soul of the Church. Now, ten years later, Time-Life Music is releasing “36 raw, live performances” from the more famous Emmy® Award winning series, Jubilee Showcase. Created and hosted by Sid Ordower, a Jewish civil rights and labor activist, Jubilee Showcase aired on ABC’s Chicago affiliate, WLS Channel 7, from 1963 to 1984. These programs introduced gospel music and Black culture in general to a much broader audience during the peak years of the Civil Rights Movement.

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New Holiday Albums: The Best of 2019

That special time of year has come around again, filling everyone with holiday cheer. But nothing has the ability to spread Christmas spirit quite like music does. Following are brief reviews of what we believe to be the best holiday albums so far this year, featuring releases from Keb’ Mo’, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, The McCrary Sisters, Elijah Blake, Jonathan Butler, and Mariah Carey. We hope these selections provide the perfect soundtrack for everyone’s holiday season. Continue reading

Cadillac Baby’s Bea & Baby Records: The Definitive Collection

 

Title: Cadillac Baby’s Bea & Baby Records: The Definitive Collection
Artist: Various
Label: Earwig
Formats: 4 CD Box Set
Release date: August 9, 2019

 

Produced by Earwig Music Company’s Michael Robert Frank, Cadillac Baby’s Bea & Baby Records: The Definitive Collection is hands down one of the best box sets of the year. The beautifully produced hard cover book includes four CDs inserted into the front and back covers, while the lavishly illustrated inner pages tell the story of the Chicago based independent record company owned by Narvel Eatmon, a colorful character better known on the South Side as “Cadillac Baby.” Frank began this labor of love in 2006 when he purchased the entire catalog and archive of the Bea & Baby label, with the goal of sharing Cadillac Baby’s musical legacy with the rest of the world.  The result is this comprehensive anthology which includes all released and unreleased tracks (with a couple of exceptions), ranging from urban and country blues, gospel, doo-wop, soul, and comedy, to rap. Along the way, Cadillac narrates his own story through six spoken word tracks interspersed throughout the collection. Other “expert witnesses” from Chicago include Jim O’Neal (Living Blues magazine), Bill Dahl, and Robert M. Marovich (Journal of Gospel Music), who all contributed to the informative liner notes. Continue reading

November 2019 Black Music Releases of Note

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

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