march 2012

Bob Marovich's Gospel Picks

dorinda'a nearly flawless CD'
Dorinda Clark-Cole
Light Records/eOne Entertainment
Available at

The strongest voice of the Clark Sisters and an artist whose vocal assist has vaulted more than one gospel single up the charts, Dorinda Clark-Cole scores with her latest solo release, I Survived.

 Throughout the album, the stylish and seasoned gospel singer keeps the vibe traditional, regardless of whether the selection is contemporary, urban R&B or P&W.

Dorinda Clark-Cole, ‘Back to You,’ from I Survived

Clark-Cole's Pentecostal roots are evident throughout I Survived. Selections such as the roof-raising "He Brought Me," with guitarist Lawrence Jones letting loose a litany of quartet licks; and the hand-clapper "Don't Give Up" are reminiscent of the musical propulsion of matriarch Dr. Mattie Moss Clark and the Southwest Michigan State Choir. The singer's contemporary take on "God Will Take Care of You," a hymn gospelized originally in 1951 by fellow COGIC stars the Gay Sisters, has much in common vocally with Aretha Franklin's later version. To a gospel waltz tempo, Clark-Cole delivers Aretha-like frictionless flights up the register.

Dorinda Clark-Cole, ‘He Brought Me,’ from I Survived

"Back To You" is the big single from the album, and it features urban R&B touches courtesy of Warryn Campbell, who samples the Clark Sisters' "No Other Name" from back in the day. Campbell and Asaph Ward take turns producing the tracks with clarity and verve. Background vocalists, which include top artists Nakita Foxx, Jamie Simond and April Nevels, provide vocal strength.

Two ballads worth mentioning are the lovely and warm "Welcome," with Erica Campbell of Mary Mary helping on background vocals; and "Thank You," written by Elbernita "Twinkie" Clark-Terrell, who joins her sister on the track. A nearly flawless CD.

Picks: "He Brought Me," "Back To You."


proud‘one of gospel’s best new balladeers’
Brian Courtney Wilson
Music World Gospel
Available at

Without a doubt, Brian Courtney Wilson is one of gospel’s best new balladeers. His soulful way with a song places him alongside fellow sacred crooners Bebe Winans and Rev. Paul Morton.

So Proud is Wilson’s second CD (technically so: a Deluxe Edition of his debut, Just Love, contained previously unissued material). The front cover sports a photo of Wilson as a toddler, a retro set of cans on his head and a facial expression of startled but intense curiosity at the sounds contained therein.

Brian Courtney Wilson, ‘He Still Cares,’ from So Proud

The photo and the title track set the tone for a CD rife with between-the-lines autobiography. Wilson looks back and chronicles the emotional rollercoaster of his musical journey, and especially the faith it took to keep moving forward, with Sunday morning-style lessons for the listener.

So Proud is steeped in rejoinders to “be still and know.” For example, “He Still Cares” reminds us that God never forgets His own, that “joy is coming in the morning/In fact, joy is here.” “Storm in Mind” offers confidence that the human spirit is stronger than any setback, and “Closer” is a “message to the faithful” that God’s help is always a prayer away.

The best song on the CD--better even than the clearly autobiographical single “So Proud”--is “Grab and Hold.” Written by Wilson, “Grab and Hold” is a simple, lovely and lyrically effective ballad on the importance of holding tight to one’s faith during all times, especially in times of need. It comes closest to Wilson’s remarkable “All I Need.” I can hear other artists covering it in the future.

Brian Courtney Wilson, ‘Monday’s Pain,’ from So Proud

“Unspeakable Joy,” one of the album’s two songs of vertical thanksgiving, teams Wilson with Detroit gospel star Vanessa Bell Armstrong. Her Pentecostal-filled singing challenges Wilson to reach inward and pull out some shouting riffs of his own.

So Proud benefits from guitar work by quartet maven Castro Coleman and a top-shelf team of producers in Stan Jones, PJ Morton, Toby Hill and Aaron W. Lindsey. While the album overall is not as uniformly masterful as Just Love, it is--Brian Courtney Wilson is--a warming of the heart and soul.

Picks: “Grab and Hold,” “So Proud.”


simpson'converting sorrows and joys into moments of musical catharsis'
Isaac Simpson & Divine Providence
SoulStride Records/EMI Gospel
Available at

Isaac Simpson is not afraid to say that he has been through some rough experiences in his lifetime.

On The Process, a live recording made in Columbus, Ohio, the singer-songwriter and his group Divine Providence, or DP, convert their sorrows and joys into moments of musical catharsis.

The Process is a satisfying album of hard-hitting and muscular P&W, contemporary ballads, gospel singing and bench-shaking choral numbers. The ensemble follows the same diverse strategy in its lyric content, balancing vertical praise songs with selections about encouragement, hope and deliverance.

Isaac Simpson & Divine Providence live, performing ‘He Made a Way,’ from the new album The Process

One of the songs of encouragement, "He Made a Way," featuring leads by Lowell Pye and Simpson, illustrates in a simple P&W melody how God never fails.  "Hide In Me" is a warm ballad that portrays Jesus as a father figure who wraps His children in His garment to keep them safe and secure. On the title track, Simpson uses the metaphor of polishing gold to teach how one must go through a process of trials by fire to become purified.

Two rousing choir selections, "So Good" (which interpolates a smidgen of the classic "God Has Smiled on Me") and "Already Made a Way," add trad cred to the album. "Already Made a Way" has an aggressive sound, evocative of full force Chicago Mass Choir. Adding gasoline to the flame, Lillian Lloyd leads the singing like an evangelist at the apex of her message.

Isaac Simpson's own singing is almost as raw and extroverted as Lloyd's, and the whole project benefits from a team of lead vocalists who offer lovely gospel solos throughout The Process. Deserving of special mention is Keshia Briggs, who leads "Jesus is Real" with bright and loving tenderness.

An intense vocal solo on the Tommies' classic "Safe in His Arms" seems parenthetical to the project (it would have been even stronger as a piece for full choir) as does the reprise of "Hide in Me." Overall, however, The Process provides a gratifying mix of gospel styles with powerful singing and musicianship.

Picks: "He Made a Way," "The Process."


jackyee‘through the various stages of rebirth’
DaVine Purpose Entertainment (2011)
Available at

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross led us through the various stages of death. On Broken but Perfected for My Purpose, Jackyee leads us through the various stages of rebirth.

Not rebirth as in reincarnation, but religious rebirth is the thread binding Jacqueline “Jackyee” Carter’s clever concept album together. Bathed in urban R&B electric beats and neo-soul vocals, Broken but Perfected for My Purpose guides the listener along a dramatic three-part journey of conversion from troubled soul to satisfied mind.  Or, quoting Proverbs 19:21, Jackyee notes that "it is the Lord's purpose that prevails."

“The Purpose” (part one) is a short collection of songs about the importance of listening and giving one’s all to the conversion experience, because "ninety-nine and a half won't do." “The Process” (part two) is the soul at its lowest ebb, scared and crying out for help (“Rescue Me”), getting mad at God and considering giving up (“Broken”), and responding to church folk who feel she’s not “one of them” (“Damaged Goods”).

Jackyee, ‘Damaged Goods,’ responding to church folk who feel she’s not ‘one of them.’ From her new album, Broken But Perfected For My Purpose.

The melodies are stylistically similar until the third part, “The Proclamation,” which to my mind is the strongest of the three sections. In fact, the singles garnering airplay right now are “Broken” and “Damaged Goods,” but I found “Never Too Far” and “Strong Yet Weak,” both in part three, to be the superior selections. “Never Too Far” moves with an easy but insistent and infectious vibe, while “Strong Yet Weak” uses a heavy beat and rap interlude to warn the listener to get ready, because you never know the day or the hour when time is up.

Vocally, Jackyee is more comfortable and flexible in the lower register, and her use of Christian rap interludes is particularly effective on the bonus track of “Broken,” featuring Kutter.

Born in Tucson, Arizona and now living in San Antonio, Texas, Jackyee starred in a production of Dreamgirls and advanced to the Hollywood rounds of American Idol in Season Six.

Picks: “Never Too Far,” “Strong Yet Weak.”


jessica‘a bounteous blessing of musical riches’
Jessica Reedy
Light Records/Entertainment One (2011)
Available at

There’s everything to like about Jessica Reedy’s debut CD, From the Heart.

It contains a superb mix of songs, messages, and musical styles that receive expert production from a battery of top-shelf producers, with lovingly rendered vocals from Reedy and several guest artists.

First and foremost, Jessica Reedy, with her pop-and-gospel infused voice, makes each performance her own. She can at once render the bouncy and feel-good “Put It On the Altar” and shift gears to do the Williams Brothers’ “I’m Still Here,” with the Soul Seekers providing quartet cred. Reedy gives the chestnut “God Has Smiled on Me” a similarly southern soul reading.

Jessica Reedy performs ‘Blue God,’ from her debut album, From the Heart

The finest selection on From the Heart is “What About Me,” a pop ballad written from the Lord’s point of view. He appeals to the suffering soul to remember to seek His help before all others. Man's neglect of God is reprised in the lyrically fascinating “Blue God.” Here, Reedy suspects that if God were a color it would be blue, reflecting His mood, since He gives far more than He ever receives from His people.

While songs such as “Always,” on which Reedy renders lovely harmonies with Nakeia Homer, are about encouragement, for pure and simple joy, try “Doctor Love,” a duet with the gutsy Faith Evans. To a soul disco beat, the two sing with gumption, girlfriend-to-girlfriend, about how Jesus is the only physician who can heal a broken heart.

Jessica Reedy, ‘What About Me,’ from her debut album, From the Heart

From the Heart is a bounteous blessing of musical riches. Packed with songs about good times, bad times and praise times, Light Records couldn’t have made a better debut album for Jessica Reedy than this one.

Picks: “Doctor Love,” “What About Me.”

Bob Marovich is a gospel music historian, radio announcer, and author. In its seventh season, Bob's "Gospel Memories" program of vintage black gospel music and artist interviews airs live first Sundays from 3:00 to 7:30 a.m. on Chicago's WLUW 88.7 FM, and streams live at Snippets of recent broadcasts can be heard at Bob is also editor of The Black Gospel Blog.

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