december 2011

By Bob Marovich

Imagine yourself diving head first into a crate packed with dusty 45 rpm vinyl records of gospel music. Not the hits of the day--not the Gospel Harmonettes, Gospel Keynotes, Davis Sisters or the Caravans--but quartets, trios, duos, singers, preachers and choirs you may not be familiar with, artists whose renown didn't reach beyond their city or region. They sold their discs whenever and wherever they ministered in song. Some artists were fortunate enough to secure interest from a large indie label or a decent distribution deal, only to sink quickly into the nether regions of memory. These are the records assembled on This May Be My Last Time Singing, the three-CD follow-up to gospel collector and enthusiast Mike McGonigal's critically acclaimed collection, Fire in My Bones, also a three-CD set on Tompkins Square. Plus: a quick Q&A with McGonigal.


By Linda Cain

Chicago’s Jubilee Showcase, the first TV show to feature black gospel music exclusively, was ‘church before church.’ From the Soul Stirrers to Albertina Walker and the Caravans to the Staple Singers to Jessy Dixon to Andrae Crouch, the artists presented by the progressive producer-host Sid Ordower represent a time capsule of gospel music history from its golden age to the modern era. Now some of the show’s great performances live again on DVD, Classic Moments in Jubilee Showcase, reviewed by Linda Cain, managing editor of the Chicago Blues Guide.


pughGENITA PUGH, My Purpose-- Pastor Genita Pugh of Laurel, Mississippi is making waves in the gospel community with her newest release, My Purpose. Pugh’s voice is warm and calming, a blend of pop, gospel and R&B. It washes over you with cleansing power, even on the album’s up-tempo churchy numbers.

dillardRICKY DILLARD and NEW G, Keep Living--Bursting on the scene in 1990 with the explosive and vocally aerobic “More Abundantly,” a song every choir subsequently learned to sing, Ricky Dillard and New G continue to inject contemporary lit with old-fashioned church spirit on their eighth CD, Keep Living. Regardless of the song style, Keep Living finds New G producing those big, round full-voice chords for which it is well known. The group has a polish ensembles develop only after years of singing together.

santiagoJUAN SANTIAGO & UNINHIBITED PRAISE, Ultimate Worship Experience: Live--On their sophomore album, Ultimate Worship Experience: Live, Instead of offering a collection of songs, Juan Santiago & Uninhibited Praise depicts aurally the mood or tone of the worship service, complete with audience response. Here, instead of bathing, listeners can baptize their senses in the service.

rokROK, Born 2 Sing--With a head full of dreadlocks and Rok as his professional name, you would anticipate that Rokeem Pough is a Christian hip-hop artist. You’d be wrong. He’s a smooth contemporary gospel singer-songwriter and a pretty good one at that. Originally from the Bronx and now living in Harlem, Rok has packaged his songs and style in a new CD, Born 2 Sing. It is a collection of quiet storm-style inspirational songs and a thematic message that Rok articulates most concretely in “I’ll Follow You:” “In this world there’s no one/Who can love you quite like me.” “Me” refers not to Rok but to God, and on selections such as the tuneful “God’s Love,” Rok croons that the Supreme Being is the one true north.

bullockAMBER BULLOCK, Thank You--Amber Bullock is the latest gospel chanteuse to earn top accolades on BET’s popular Sunday Best, taking home the crown during Season Four. Bullock's debut CD, Thank You, is a seven-track EP with a smart song selection and diverse arrangements to showcase her singing.

*After Childrens’ Murders, Rocky Smith and Wife Form Rocky Smith Ministries--
On November 20, 2011, Rocky Smith and his wife Gail received the horrific news that their sons Dylan and Zach had been murdered, along with three other children, by Rocky’s ex-wife, who was distraught over the end of her three-year-affair with a married man. In the wake of this tragedy, the Smiths have formed Rocky Smith Ministries to minister to others about the dangers of domestic violence and untreated mental illness, as well as urging the gift of organ donations.
*’I’ll Flay Away’ Turns 80--In 1932 Albert E. Brumley presented ‘a little ditty’ he had written to the Hartford Music Company. Eighty years later the ditty, ‘I’ll Fly Away,’ lays claim to being the most recorded song in history. Happy birthday. Plus: a performance of ‘I’ll Fly Away’ by Johnny and June Carter Cash and Carl Perkins.

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