Gospel News & Notes

Bus Accident Bowls Over Bowlings

On July 1, gospel’s The Bowling Family was involved in a serious bus accident outside of Charlotte, NC. According to  Southern Gospel News (http://www.sogospelnews.com/index/news/monthly/), all those traveling on the bus are expected to make a full recovery. However, Mike Bowling suffered a fractured skull, broken wrist and facial lacerations and had to be life-flighted from the accident site. Reports indicate he will be confined to bed rest for at least eight weeks. His wife, Kelly, suffered multiple fractures in her vertebrae and a broken ankle, and may require surgery. Her recovery time is estimated to be at least three months. Cards and wishes may be sent to: 242 West Main Street PMB 373 Hendersonville, TN 37075 or via email to the Southern Gospel News website. Fans have asked how they can help financially to help cover unforeseen expenses and for that, the Bowling Family expresses its appreciation to all who want to pitch in. Contributions can be made by PayPal on the group's website (http://www.themikebowlinggroup.com), or by sending a check to: Pinnacle Bank West End Attn: Becky McIllwain 2300 West End Ave. Nashville, TN 37203. The Bowling Family continues to ask for your prayers during this time of healing. For more information, visit http://www.themikebowlinggroup.com.

The Bowling Family, ‘Tears Will Never Stain The Streets Of That City,’ written by Dottie Rambo


Solo, But Not Alone, Karen Clark Sheard Says: ‘It's Gospel Music's Time’
By Chevel Johnson (AP)
There's not a time in her life when gospel artist Karen Clark Sheard can remember not singing

And now that gospel music increasingly is finding its way onto urban radio and into homes through TV talent shows like BET's Sunday's Best and the Gospel Music Channel's Gospel Dream, the Grammy Award-winning vocalist says there's never been a better time than now to bring such good news to the masses.

"This is a great day for gospel music," said Sheard, who has enthralled audiences with her multi-octave voice for decades and shows no sign of stopping. "There were days when it was not played on the radio. Now, it's being accepted on R&B stations, allowing us to deliver the message of my God to everyone."

Sheard, 49, said she views her singing as a ministry.

"I could not have done this without knowing the person we sing about," she said. "I definitely can look back on my life and my struggles and say, 'God can bring you out and give you favor when doors have been shut.' That's what motivates me to believe."

Sheard said her mother, Mattie Moss Clark, instilled such teachings in her when she was a child and, each time she takes a microphone, she hopes those teachings shine through.

"It's in my upbringing. I was taught that you're not just out there singing, but you're using your gift to help people know that there's hope in the world," she said.

And doing that is nothing new for Sheard.

As a member of the iconic gospel group, The Clark Sisters, Sheard and her sisters are credited with helping to bring contemporary Christian music to mainstream listeners. And that mission continues when they perform in New Orleans on Sunday — the final day of the Essence Music Festival's annual "party with a purpose."

"It's been years since we were last at the festival and to be asked to return, I think, encourages us to know that we haven't been forgotten," she said.

The group is participating in a tribute to gospel music legend, Pastor Shirley Caesar.

"To be a part of an event put on by Essence, which has been such a force in so many women's lives, with such women of power and women of great character, is amazing for me," she said.

Sheard said as she moves into another phase of her life she realizes that being of help and impacting other people's lives is key.

"You must be a blessing to others and this is absolutely an extension of and a part of what we do. Being able to tap into audiences that may not have heard of The Clark Sisters or that may not listen to gospel music is just great. God always has divine timing when there's a purpose that must be fulfilled. And this is our time to bless somebody's life."

Sheard said she always enjoys singing with her sisters and expects Sunday's performance to reflect that.

"It's comfortable there, surrounded by my sisters," she said, laughing. "All the weight of the performance is not on me. As a solo artist, there's a lot of mental stress you have to deal with. Not so when I'm with my family."

And though her latest release, All in One, is a solo effort, Sheard said she doesn't feel like she's alone.

Karen Clark Sheard in a fiery solo performance of ‘Prayed Up’

The record, released in April, was produced with her husband, J. Drew Sheard, on their own label — Karew Records — and features stellar vocals from her daughter Kierra "Kiki" Sheard, son J. Drew Sheard II, sister Dorinda Clark Cole, niece Angel Chisholm and cousin J. Moss.

"This album definitely gives you a glimpse of who I really am," she said. "I'm an artist but I'm also a mother, a wife, a sister. And I'm very adamant about spending quality time with family. This album reflects that."

This year, Sheard won over some new fans as she broke into musical theater. Cast in the stage play, Church Girl, Sheard said the role is yet another way to spread messages of survival and triumph.

"This is another way for me to deliver what I do to people who don't go to church," Sheard said.

"When I was asked to play the part of the church girl's aunt, I immediately thought of my nieces and nephews, some of whom have strayed and every now and then I have to go after them."

Sheard said more acting also is in her future. "I have an upcoming role in a movie about Aretha Franklin's life. It was an honor to be asked," she said, but wouldn't give any more details.

Karen Clark Sheard’s All In One is available at www.amazon.com


Here He Is: Marvin Sapp Visits The Mountaintop On Here I Am

Contemporary gospel giant Marvin Sapp, the 25-year-veteran who made an indelible mark on the genre during his years with the urban gospel group Commissioned, has achieved crossover success as a solo artist that his legendary group never experienced. Some critics were disappointed by Sapp’s 2007 album, Thirsty, but the naysayers have all fled in the wake of his powerful new solo release, Here I Am. Even so, Sapp has the last laugh on his critics with regard to Thirsty: it was his first chart topping album as a solo artist; it climbed to #28 on the pop chart and remained on the chart for 81 weeks; a single off the album, “The Best In Me,” logged a record setting 56 weeks on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and logged a million ring-tone sales; and the album is closing in on platinum status with sales at more than 700,000.

His new album reaffirms his standing as the foremost male gospel singer of our era, one virtually without competitors, despite a number of powerful contenders for the throne. Recommending the album on the Soul Tracks website (http://www.soultracks.com/review-marvin-sapp-here-i-am), J. Matthew Cobb pretty well nailed what all the fuss is about. To quote:

This latest release once again unites Sapp with producer Aaron Lindsey (Israel Houghton) and background support from Myron Butler & Levi.

Some of the mechanics from Thirsty are obvious to the ear: the snappy up-tempo workouts opening the set, the bigger ballads tucked in the back and another larger-than-life live experience swarming with the smoke of a Sunday morning worship service. Nonetheless, Sapp has shaken things up on Here I Am, sometimes even for the better. The songs are less predictable, more energized and better developed. While the gospel balladeer scores major points with smooth, inspirational numbers ("Don't Count Me Out," "Comfort Zone," "Here I Am"), he also manages to work in a few energetic sparklers on this set, particularly the funky disco opener "I Came" and the old school R&B of "Wait." Another favorite, "Keep Holding On," flexes a nice mix of ‘90s contemporary gospel and Lady Gaga-esque galactic synths that could easily land on both urban AC and gospel radio. He's even heard conjuring the Detroit churchy funk of Fred Hammond on the upbeat "Fresh Wind." Towards the end of the track, Sapp lets himself loose, going in on a sweaty showcase that sounds like James Brown going gospel.

Marvin Sapp performs ‘The Best In Me,’ from his new album Here I Am, for a live studio audience as part of an Easter special on Sirius XM satellite radio

The majority of the attention for Here I Am will surround "The Best In Me," the project's most poignant and greatest reward. Certainly, there are enough echoes of "Never Would Have Made It" to make "The Best in Me" a predictable reprise, the B-side to the former hit, if you will. Still, if it's not broke, don't fix it. And, for his part, Sapp does find a refreshing lyric ("He saw the best in me/When everyone else around could only see the worst in me") while still milking the simplicity of the song with his sermonic ad-libs.

Arguably, Here I Am is a better album than Thirsty. While it is carefully calculated in trying to mimic the formulaic success of its predecessor, it's not an obvious rehash of some of that project's passable, but forgettable selections. Here I Am escapes the ennui of Thirsty's segueing of one slow, exhaustive worship song after another. The new songs here are injected with more musical freedom, livelier arrangements and Sapp's innate ability to sell the lyrics, setting a new standard for the kind of material new listeners and fans should expect from him after "Never Would Have Made It." Even when Sapp takes on the Kings of Leon pop-rock with "Praise You Forever," an attempt to regulate his gutsy vocals into something more subdued, Sapp still demonstrates he isn't afraid to take a few risky chances without selling out. If Thirsty was Sapp's introduction to the mainstream, the public best be prepared to be re-introduced. Recommended.

Marvin Sapp’s Here I Am is available at www.amazon.com


New Gospel Music Website: Be sure to check out PAUL CASH’s new gospel music blog, rhythmandpraise at http://rhythmandpraiseblog.blogspot.com/. Cash has a persuasive take on the best of contemporary black gospel, informed insights and plenty of videos to boot. Well done.

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