march 2011

Following his mother’s death in 2005, gospel legend RICHARD SMALLWOOD found himself barren of musical ideas. But now the muse has returned, and on the occasion of a new album release, Promises, the multi-award winning artist spoke to Gospel editor Bob Marovich about the reasons for his hiatus from recording, reflected on his musical influences and his inspiration for writing, and discussed some of the songs on his new long-player.

Keeping The Programs Going. Amen!

In October 2010, several renowned stars came to celebrate and help raise operating revenue for the Black Academy of Arts and Letters that was founded by Curtis King 34 years ago. ‘In a bad economy the first thing that gets cut is arts funding," says King, whose 250,000 square foot complex is adjacent to the Dallas City Hall, in a news release. "However, it's the plays, concerts, poetry readings and other inspiring programming we offer that helps people get through rough times like these. So, we're thrilled that these artists came together to make a CD that will raise money to help keep these programs going.’ Now, a new hard hitting gospel CD brings American Idol champion Ruben Studdard and other stars together to raise funds for the Academy. Also in this month’s Gospel News & Notes: Bass vocalist MIKE JENNINGS has joined the DIXIE ECHOES; a review of THE KINGSMEN’s new album, Grace Says.


medicineVARIOUS ARTISTS, Medicine--Live At The Black Academy Of Arts And Letters-- In October 2010, artists a-plenty participated in a concert to raise operating support for Dallas's Black Academy of Arts and Letters, a nonprofit organization founded by Curtis King in 1977 that is now the largest multi-discipline black cultural institution in the United States. In the process of delivering some much-needed financial medicine, the collection of singers, actors and musicians provided no small amount of spiritual medicine in the live program, captured for posterity on Medicine.

yrmDONALD LAWRENCE & CO., YRM (Your Righteous Mind)-- On this, his third solo CD, Lawrence uses his authoritative voice to teach lessons, declare simple truths, send audibles to the choir, and explain the stories behind some of the songs, which are often inspired by teachings of favorite pastors (one appears here: Bishop Tudor Bismark of South Africa). Though its messages are diverse, a unifying element of YRM is the belief that you are what you, in your mind, declare yourself to be. When you affirm your personal "I Am," God will move in your life accordingly.

journeyCYNTHIA JAMES, Journey of Soul-- Journey of Soul maintains the smooth jazz vibe that Jones established on her 2008 Kingdom Records CD, Gotta Soul. The North Carolina-based singer sounds like she was raised in New York or L.A., her music nurtured by smart vocalists such as Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Lisa McClendon and Lauryn Hill. Jones' snappy repartee on "Unconditional" suggests she even picked up a couple of vocal tips along the way from the late Michael Jackson. The album lyrics are part praise, part honest conversations with God, and part life lessons imparted with an intimacy, as if it's just you and Miss Jones, hanging out on a shaggy-carpeted living room.

lovetonesLOVETONES, Standing On The Rock-- Standing on the Rock is a much finer example of the LoveTones musical "lay ministry of hope and comfort" than their previous recorded examples. One can only hope the ensemble continues to hone its craft because traditional gospel classics and vocal group harmony are worth preserving.

treTRE' THOMAS, A Natural Contrast-- Born in New Orleans and a former member of the Howard University Gospel Choir, Tre' Thomas grew up in church but prefers laid-back R&B to express his religious conviction. The ten tracks on Thomas' debut album, A Natural Contrast, find him immersed in the quiet storm groove as he lays bare his soul to the listener.

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