november 2010 header
beyond the blue


Bob Marovich’s Gospel Picks

maryPressing On
Mary Alessi
Miami Life Sounds

Having experienced the flowing, atmospheric praise and worship style of her twin sister, Martha Munizzi, I was totally unprepared for, but pleasantly surprised by, the opening moments of Mary Alessi's sophomore release, Pressing On.

On the first few tracks, Mary jams out like Martha's headphone-wearing rock star sister. The arrangements join sweet praise and worship lyrics with CCM melodies and pulse-pounding power pop. Michael Hodge's electric guitar sizzles and stings while the beat sounds plucked from the Cars songbook. Alessi attacks the lyrics with soulful fervor, the grit in her tuneful delivery being reminiscent of a saved and sanctified Bonnie Bramlett.

Munizzi makes a cameo appearance on one of the power pop pieces, the electrifying "More Than Conquerors." The sisters ought to release an album together, performing songs that harken back to their roots as children in a family of traveling evangelists.

Mary Alessi performing a live version of the title song of her new album, Pressing On.

Midway through the project, and at just the right juncture, Alessi turns down the heat—she would have boiled over otherwise!—to render mellower praise ballads. Her estimable songwriting skills and command of melody and song structure stand out at this point, especially on the gorgeous ballad "Saturate Me" and the equally heartfelt title track.

About the title track: Alessi came up with the concept for "Pressing On" after her husband, Stephen, suffered a heart attack while the couple was vacationing. The song is given an informal acoustic treatment here but would be a masterpiece if sung more slowly and to an orchestral arrangement with a heartbeat of a rhythm. Like most songs written from a deep well of emotional turmoil, "Pressing On" has legs and I suspect will be covered by other artists in time.

Mary Alessi, 'Hero,' an Alessi original from her new album, Pressing On

While most of the songs carry CCM melodies and rhythm, "Great Day" contains a touch of contemporary country. The medley, "I'll Come Running to You/Have Your Way in Me," has more than a dash of contemporary gospel, with Alessi vamping bluesy at the end.

Songs such as "I Will Bless the Lord," "I Love You," and "I Surrender All," the latter co-written with Aaron W. Lindsey, are more typically P&W in their embrace of drama and hypnotic introspection. The audience is singing along at this point in the service. One can visualize a sea of arms waving in worshipful assent.

Pressing On is a well-crafted and superbly paced project with plenty to like about it. It was recorded live at Mary and Stephen Alessi's Metro Life Church in Miami and signals Mary's debut as a producer. The album was released last month on the couple's new Miami Life Sounds imprint.

Four of Five Stars

gPod Picks: "More Than Conquerors," "Pressing On," "Saturate Me."

Mary Alessi's Pressing On is available at


Totally Dedicated
Totally Dedicated

The name of Totally Dedicated's new album, QuarTemporary, is evocative of the music within.

The members of this Louisville, Kentucky-based group are Charles "Noo" Simmons, Ben "Black" Bush, Raymond "Three" Noah, Steve "Stuff" Frazier, Demarcus Everett and Ricky Wiggington.

Like Commissioned and the Soul Seekers, Totally Dedicated fuses old-school quartet soul—the sweat-soaked sound of the B3 and acrobatic guitar licks—with tuneful songs artfully arranged to resonate with a contemporary gospel audience.

Their high tenor harmonies are sweet, soulful, smooth and classy. At the same time, they can be powerfully polyrhythmic, as on "Me and Jesus" and the techno-infused "Victorious." At the other extreme, "Holding On" is a slow, moody, piano-accompanied ballad of encouragement on which the quartet renders complex harmonies in a Take 6 style.

Totally Dedicated can also deliver drive-tempo songs, literally true on "Ridin'." Here, the lead sings "I've got Jesus ridin' with me" while the group chants a hypnotic vamp in the background. "In Spite of Myself" is another driver, with the guitarist firing off hot licks like a modern day Howard Carroll.

Lyrically, the guys "from the 'Ville" know that things aren't always hunky dory. On "Pride of Life," they take on "preachers and singers talking about everything but the Word." The group admits they themselves aren't perfect on "Still Got Work."

Christian rapper God's Man intones rhythmic rhymes on "In Jesus' Name" and "Me and Jesus."

All of the selections on QuarTemporary are top-notch in terms of melody, lyricism and production. Totally Dedicated is a group deserving of major label attention.

Five of Five Stars

gPod Picks: "Pride of Life," "Ridin'," "In Spite of Myself."

Totally Dedicated's QuarTemporary is available as a download at the group's website store.


rosemondNothing Missing, Nothing Broken
Catina Rosemond
Selah Jah Records, LLC (2010)

Nearly ten years ago, gospel singer Catina Copeland Rosemond was in a car accident that left her horribly disfigured and nearly blind. Take a look at the back cover of her CD, Nothing Missing, Nothing Broken, and you will see several of the shocking before photos. Gaze again at the front cover, and you will think nothing ever happened.

Talk about a testimony.

Not surprisingly, the CD's theme is about not giving up, realizing who is really in charge of your life, and the importance of prayer, praise and being thankful.

Rosemond was raised in the COGIC church under the musical tutelage of Mattie Moss and Twinkie Clark. She is a versatile vocalist, one of gospel's new wave of multi-talented and eclectic female singers. Capable of lung-expanding gospel singing on the atmospheric "Perfect Peace," Rosemond can also deliver Damita-style R&B swagger on "Neva Give Up" and combine a pillowy neo-soul texture with evangelistic fervor on a number of other album tracks.

"Give Me Your Heart," a song featuring sharply-constructed rhymes from Kingdom Diplomats, turns up the heat to techno-dance intensity as it instructs the lost to return to Jesus, like a child to a parent, for direction, because He's waiting. A bonus remix is included on the album, but it should also be given an extended version for gospel DJs or gospel skate nights (skate nights, do they still exist?).

Catina Rosemond, 'The Worship Never Ends,' a jazzy gospel duet with Brandon Groves from her new album, Nothing Missing, Nothing Broken

Several guest vocalists complement Rosemond's creamy style and bring out her best, too. Fiery duets with Shawn Bigby on "I Wanna" and Brandon Groves on "The Worship Never Ends" unite soulful crooners who open the performance in a mellow mood and close with luminous explosions of impassioned hard singing. "The Worship Never Ends" is especially interesting lyrically, as it tackles the perplexing question of how to make the Sunday praise experience last all week long.

Nothing Missing, Nothing Broken is expertly produced, thanks to a team of pedigreed producers including husband (and Selah Jah label owner) Alfred Rosemond, former Atlantic Records artist James Owens, and Stellar-nominated Alphaeus Anderson (Pure-N-Heart).

The incomparable title track features Chiccy Baritone's spoken word chronicle of Rosemond's auto accident and recovery. With lines such as "a misplaced eye/That was visibly hanging on securely to an optic nerve," it's not for the faint of heart. Nevertheless, by the time Rosemond is singing her thanks to God for the miracle in becoming "whole and complete" again, you are shaking your head in awed disbelief and joining in her gratitude.

Four of Five Stars

gPod Picks: "Give Me Your Heart," "Perfect Peace."

Catina Rosemond's Nothing Missing, Nothing Broken is available at


just loveJust Love (Deluxe Edition)
Brian Courtney Wilson
Music World Gospel 2010

If you don't know who gospel's Brian Courtney Wilson is, you haven't been paying attention.

Wilson is a crooner with the ability to save souls and break hearts at the same time. His handsome and soulful voice is like unto BeBe and Marvin Winans, with the smoothness of Donny Hathaway layered like icing on top. Wilson's debut CD, Just Love, and the single "All I Need," have been mainstays on the Billboard gospel charts for more than a year.

Mathew Knowles' Music World Gospel has now released a deluxe edition of Just Love. This repackaged version contains the original album in its entirety and five new songs. A special DVD included in the set contains behind-the-scenes exclusive footage of the making of Just Love and a video of Wilson singing at a worship service at Bethany Baptist Church in Lindenwold, New Jersey.

Of the new songs, "Awesome God," is not only the best, but ranks as one of Wilson's finest. It is a breathtaking praise anthem originally written for the choir at Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston, where Wilson reoriented his life some years ago. It is a song delivered passionately and with a sprinkling of Richard Smallwood swagger in its majestic arrangement.

"The Word" is also a likeable new track. "This Christmas" is not exactly new—it originally appeared on labelmate Trin-I-Tee 5:7's Christmas album last year—but may be new to some. For certain it demonstrates the Donny Hathaway influence on singer-hymnist Wilson.

The deluxe edition transforms Brian Courtney Wilson's already splendid solo debut into a gospel masterpiece, one of the best releases this year. One can expect more great things in the future from the former pharma rep from Chicago who rediscovered his true calling at Windsor Village.

Five of Five Stars

gPod Picks: "Awesome God," "All I Need," "Believe."

The deluxe edition of Brian Courtney Wilson's Just Love is available at

Bob Marovich has more gospel picks, news and interviews at The Black Gospel Blog

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (
Website Design: Kieran McGee (
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY;, Alicia Zappier (New York)
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024