march 2011


Bob Marovich's Gospel Picks

myrickNo sophomore slump here
Terry Myrick
Sweet Melody Records (2011)
Available at

Show Me the Way is gospel artist and off-Broadway talent Terry Myrick's sophomore solo release on his own imprint, Sweet Melody Records.

The album's opening selections, such as "He Is" and "It's Going to Be All Right," have a laidback acoustic vibe. Early on, Myrick also spends much of his time exploring the top of his five-octave range, but his vocals are more comfortable when he is singing in the middle of his range and only pulling on falsetto leaps for dramatic emphasis. For example, on "Didn't I Tell You," a mid-tempo mover written by the album's producer, Rod Clemmons, Myrick's mid-range vocalizing makes the track.

The background vocalists, including Tamara Beamer and Gail Lou DeSandies, do a fine job throughout Show Me the Way, and the Brian Hines Ensemble, accompanied by in-demand keyboardist Michael Bereal on organ, take "You Were There For Me, Lord" up several notches. Guitarist Willie Brown contributes some fine licks on the title track, while sessionista Jonathan DuBose, Jr. provides relaxed guitar work on "I Need You Lord," a song that riffs on the lyrics to the hymn, "I Need Thee Every Hour."

"You're All That I Need" is a contemporary gospel piece that flirts with traditional, especially given Brian Hines' old-school organ work.

The melodies outshine the lyrics on Show Me the Way, and some tracks work better than others, but overall the songs grow on you after a couple of listenings.

Pick: "Didn't I Tell You."


duboseThe Prophesying Guitarist
Jonathan DuBose, Jr.
JoBo Records
Available at

Jonathan DuBose, Jr. is the Hal Blaine of gospel music.

Known as "The Prophesying Guitarist," DuBose has played a supporting role, supplying the guitar parts for dozens of recordings you hear on the radio and on CD.

For Releasing the Spirit, DuBose takes his turn on center stage. His solo album is an instrumental collection of beloved gospel hymns and songs, where the guitar is the lead voice. It's a relaxed jam session on church classics where the jazzing does not obliterate but adds flavor to the melodies.

Jonathan Dubose, Jr., 'The Prophesying Guitarist,' 'While You Wait'

DuBose is an accomplished musician, his skill forged in the crucible of studio work, which he now handles mostly from his home studio (see his interview with TBGB). On "Blessed Quietness" and "Solid Rock," his guitar produces big-body resonance a la Joe Walsh, but on James Moore's "Joy," the licks turn downright funky. DuBose coaxes a more contemplative sound out of his guitar on "Come to Jesus," an altar call that by the end has such bright flourishes, you'd swear someone came forward.

The two-part "His Eye's On the Sparrow" is the album's apex, taking "I sing because I'm happy" to a new level of exuberance. Other tracks include Andrae Crouch's "Soon and Very Soon," which at risk of sounding like a Yogi Berra quip, is so popular you hardly ever hear it anymore. "Come By Here" is dedicated to Willie Edmund, DuBose's uncle and personal guitar hero.

DuBose concludes the album with an appropriately meditative version of the Church of God in Christ "Yes, Lord" chant.

Releasing the Spirit sprinkles jazz on church songs without turning them into smooth jazz pap.

Pick: "His Eye's On the Sparrow."


spadyMusician, Songwriter, Sociology Student...
Tim Spady & Inspiration
Tspady Music 2011
Write to the artist at:

We first met musician, songwriter and sociology student Tim Spady last July, when he introduced "I'll Forever Praise Him," a touching ballad sweetly sung by Nneka Best.

As promised, "I'll Forever Praise Him" is available on Tim Spady & Inspiration's recently released full-length project, Songs From My Heart. The influence of Richard Smallwood is manifest throughout the album, but particularly in the majestic flourishes the classically trained Spady places within songs such as "In His Presence" and "You Are God."

A remarkable piano solo, "Great is Thy Faithfulness," demonstrates Spady's gift at the keys.

The passionate praise ballad is Spady's sweet spot, and "I'll Forever Praise Him" is his magnum opus to date. Still, the jazzy, urban "Can't Make It Without Your Love" is intriguing for its dalliance with harmonies that move up and down one-half step at a time. "Come In" is a high energy praise rouser that is conventional in melody but exercises a keen feel for dynamic development.

Although Spady is in his early twenties, many of the selections on Songs from My Heart were written while he was a teenager, some when he was only fifteen. One might conclude that the more recent songs are the most accomplished, but that's not necessarily the case. "In His Presence," which Spady wrote as a sixteen-year-old, stands out as one of the album's best tracks and equally as sophisticated as his more recent work.

Songs From My Heart is a fine introduction to Tim Spady's sacred songwriting. One can only hope that he will continue pursuing his craft with diligence in the years to come.

Picks: "I'll Forever Praise Him," "In His Presence," "Can't Make It Without Your Love."


vashawnA fine retrospective of a rising star
Vashawn Mitchell
Tyscot Records (2011)

Following in the wake of triple-threat Vashawn Mitchell's Grammy nominations and critically-acclaimed CD Triumphant (EMI Gospel), Tyscot Records mined its catalog to present the Chicagoan's best early recordings and performances as a CD/DVD combination called My Songbook.

The selections on My Songbook are culled from projects such as Mitchell's Believe in Your Dreams (2005) and Promises (2007). It will introduce newer fans to the artist's early material that, they'll discover, is just as fresh as his current work.

Mitchell is one of the most gifted gospel songwriters in the business today. Like PJ Morton, Mitchell writes lyrics that pierce the soul with an archer's accuracy. The music and arrangements are contemporary but with enough traditionally sanctified flavoring to satisfy old-schoolers.

What's nice about the companion DVD is that it is not a video rehashing of the audio CD but a continuation of the Vashawn Mitchell Songbook. The 70-minute video is a live performance of Mitchell and his group at Chicago's intimate Apollo Theater. They sing some of the songs on the CD, but others, such as "Favor (Ain't Fair)" and "Crazy Praise," are only available on the DVD. Guest appearances on the DVD include Bishop Larry Trotter, Angie Spivey and Kim Burrell. Spivey in particular is an F5 tornado of energy; she whooshes across the stage like an otherworldly force and stirs up a praise break.

For those who already own everything Mitchell has released, the set contains two unreleased tracks from the Tyscot vaults: "God Cares for You" and a remix of "Don't Last."

My Songbook would have benefited from expanded liner notes that identified the source album for each of the songs and listed the lead singers for each track. Nevertheless, the set is a fine retrospective on the work of an artist whose star continues to rise.

Picks: "No Way," "Promises," "Don't Last."

marovichBob 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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