january 2011

Bob Marovich's Gospel Picks

hurricane‘Summoning the Force of a Mighty Wind…’
Rev. Johnny L. Jones
Dust-to-Digital (2010)

Rev. Johnny L. Jones of Atlanta is not nicknamed "Hurricane" for nothing. This passionate preacher summons the force of a mighty wind when he gets to singing, shouting, or delivering a message.

Thanks to Lance Ledbetter and his marvelous Dust-to-Digital enterprise, more than two and a half hours of selections from Rev. Jones' 1,000+ hours of archived tape ministry are available to the public for the first time. The Hurricane That Hit Atlanta is two CDs packed with gospel singing, preaching, moaning, bluesy musicianship, lined-out "Doc Watts" hymns, local radio advertising, members slain by the spirit and congregational singing, the earliest track dating back to 1957.

The Rev. Johnny L. Jones, 'The Hurricane That Hit Atlanta'—the story behind the album and a look at the Rev. Jones at work today

While today's radio waves, gospel charts and mega-churches resonate with the sound of polished praise and worship, contemporary gospel, gospel hip hop and R&B-infused sacred music, many African American churches, especially smaller ones, shake the rafters like Jones' Second Mount Olive Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. Here you will hear simple, energetic renditions of traditional gospels and hymns accompanied by musicians who play with the furor of a garage blues band. The audio quality of the CDs is amazingly clear, given the low-fidelity source materials, though the project maintains its raw authenticity, like a Lomax field recording.

Jones shouts and hollers so hard I had to keep looking at the CD booklet to remind myself that he isn't a Holiness preacher. During "My Lord is a Rock in a Weary Land," Jones all but acknowledges this by singing the famous couplet, "Some folks they call me noisy, I belong to a noisy crew/Well, we shout when we get happy, that's the way all Christians do."  I did a double-take when the choir and congregation launched into the Church of God in Christ's "Yes Lord" chant during "A Mother Loves Her Children All the Time." Anyone who doubts that gospel music can and does cross denominational boundaries need only listen to the mesmerizing and hypnotic singing on the religious jam sessions "I Love the Lord" and "I Don't Know What You Come to Do" to hear the sanctified influence on the Baptist beat.

The Rev. Johnny L. 'Hurricane' Jones, 'The Day Is Past and Gone,' taped at a service in the 1960s

Jones is accompanied by a parade of male and female soloists and the church choir, which renders deliciously amateur but nonetheless enthusiastic interpretations of classics such as "God Specializes," "I Promised the Lord that I Would Hold Out," and "I Want Jesus to Walk with Me."

The CD booklet, which provides archival photos and biographical information on the pastor, does not indicate when each track was recorded but it doesn't much matter. The whole package feels timeless.


todd dulaney‘Putting It To the Test’
Todd Dulaney
Goldstreet Gospel (2010)
Available at www.goldstreetgospel.com

As a background vocalist for Smokie Norful, former professional baseball player Todd Dulaney studied the Stellar Award-winning singer's melismatic runs and adopted some as his own, all the while maintaining a smooth, crooning style distinct from his mentor.

Dulaney puts it to the test on his debut CD, Pulling Me Through, for the new Goldstreet Gospel label.

Dulaney is among a new generation of sacred songsters who set praise and worship lyrics to CCM melodies and arrangements, and voice them with gospel runs, blue notes and strong emotional expression. Call it contemporary, call it P&W—you know it when you hear it.

The title track, and current single, of Dulaney's debut project is emblematic of this style and of the album. "Pulling Me Through" is a song of thanksgiving sung with a pop sensibility. Possessing a theme and style similar to "Pulling Me Through" is "Wouldn't Trade," an energetic track with potential to cross over onto the Christian Song chart. "I'll Keep Praying" reminds me of V. Michael McKay's "Corinthian Song" in its simple, anthemic eloquence.

Some tracks, such as "Te Amo," include swatches of techno, auto tune and other hip augmentations to accentuate the project's youthfulness, and although they are compelling, Dulaney's voice alone is sufficient.

To this point: the finest moment on Pulling Me Through comes at the conclusion, on the hypnotic and meditative "My Everything." Here the handsomeness of Dulaney's tenor is given free rein to explore its range unfettered by rhythm and heavy instrumentation. It is a gorgeous selection and the most illustrative of Dulaney's capabilities.


serve the lord‘Bringing Church Back to Church Music’
Leanne Faine & Favor
Music Makers Recordings/Le'Riche Entertainment (2010)
Available at www.cdbaby.com

The album notes to Serve the Lord proclaim that Leanne Faine "is bringing church back to church music."

That she does.

On her third solo release, Faine—famed soloist for the Thompson Community Singers and the voice of the choir's popular "The Holy Ghost”—teams with her ensemble Favor to shake the rafters and shout down the glory.

What's most striking is that the album is unabashedly traditional and singularly focused. Bucking the trend of offering several varieties of gospel music on one CD, like a Whitman sampler of styles, Serve the Lord starts traditional and stays traditional.

Leanne Faine, ‘I’m On My Way To Heaven’

The CD even offers more than the usual portion of uptempo church wreckers. These include the incendiary title track and current single, the backbeat driven "Awesome God" and the tambourine-shaking "He'll Make it Alright." The latter is a Thompson Community Singers classic from the mid-‘80s, written by Percy Bady and sung by the late Ethel Holloway. Naturally, Faine dedicates her version to Holloway and the Tommies.

On "Lord, Give Me What I Need," Faine slows the tempo to sing churchy and flatfooted, with fire in her bones. When album producer Nathan Young sidles up to the B3 to accompany Faine on "O Sweet Wonder," the Leslie speaker chortles, gargles, and disgorges its thick, gooey chords until the "Yes Lord" chant arises...eerily, too, as if the organ itself was caught up in the spirit.

The closest Serve the Lord comes to contemporary gospel is the bonus track, "Can I Get a Witness," an ensemble outing with a funky beat recorded live at Faine's home church, Sweet Holy Spirit, where Bishop Larry D. Trotter is Pastor.

Legendary powerhouse gospel singers Albertina Walker and Ethel Holloway may be gone but their technique and passion live on in the ministries of Chicago artists such as Leanne Faine.

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 http://www.wluw.org/. Snippets of recent broadcasts can be heard at http://www.gospelmemories.com/. Bob is also editor of The Black Gospel Blog: http://blackgospel.blogspot.com.



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