Monday, May 30, 2011

Sizzlin' This Week (5/30/11) - "Judgement"

From the CD, 4 Righteousness Sake - The Process (2010)
Available on iTunes

Secular-turned-gospel rapper Darnell Deshaun Woods, also known as Witness, is fulfilling his purpose.  Rap, which his pastor says stands for "reaching all people," is his forte.

The proof is in the pudding.  In this case the pudding is "Judgement," through which Witness flows over layers of electric piano, wah-wah effects, finger snaps, and luscious background vocals.  Of course all of this is after the startling intro of shrieks, sirens, and shots followed by his plea: "Father, help me get it right before You return.  I don't want to hear you say those words, 'Depart from me, I know you not.'"

"Judgement" is a personal and soulful track brought to us by a talented and reflective witness.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Singer/Musician Kent Brooks to be honored with appreciation musical

First Calvary Baptist Church in Durham is honoring its Director of Music Ministries, Kent Brooks, on Sunday, May 29th.  The appreciation celebration will also be a farewell service; Brooks is leaving to pursue aspirations in higher education.

Brooks is a well known singer, musician, and workshop clinician who has served as music director for gospel greats Albertina Walker and Richard Smallwood.  He is also the founder, composer/arranger, conductor and accompanist for the Kent Brooks Ensemble.

Brooks spawned thought-provoking insights on the role of gay men in gospel music and the church in 2006, when he offered his perspective to Chicago Tribune in a feature story called "Letting Their Voices Be Heard."

The musical will feature a mass choir of musicians, choirs and praise teams.  Fredrick A. Davis is the host pastor.

Location:  First Calvary Baptist Church, 1311 Morehead Avenue
Date:  May 29, 2011
Time:  4pm

Friday, May 27, 2011

Donnie McClurkin talks church, fame, and relationships

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever
Shaundria Williams contributed to this feature

This is the first of a two-part feature with pastor and singer Donnie McClurkin.

Donnie McClurkin is a giant in gospel music.  From his early days of recording with New York Restoration Choir to his solo albums that have achieved gold and platinum status, the singer/songwriter/musician is among the most gifted male vocalists of our time.  Yet, while McClurkin's singing virtuosity is unmatched and draws audiences of thousands, the multiple Grammy winner spends more time these days discussing another calling that is dear to his heart: being a pastor.

For ten years, Donnie McClurkin has also been known as Pastor McClurkin, shepherd of the flock of Perfecting Faith Church in Freeport, NY.  It is a calling that he fully embraces, and he recently spoke with us about a vision to which he is wholeheartedly devoted.  McClurkin's music reaches across cultures, denominations, and generations; he envisions the same impact for his church and churches across the globe as well.

"What I see the Lord doing is tear[ing] down all of these divisive walls--tear[ing] down the walls of culture and race, tear[ing] down the walls of denomination, tear[ing] down all of these walls and teach[ing] us how to function with one another...that's what I see God doing in the ministry he's given me and the ministry of a few others," McClurkin explains.  "There's no victory, there's no power, there's no real accomplishment in the division," he continues.  "Jesus said the house that's divided against itself cannot stand--so why did we turn around and start dividing the house?"

The pastor's passion for unity over traditionalism, oneness over denominationalism, is glaring.

"With denominations...we have made [the church as a whole] everything that God said He did not want it to be," he asserts.  McClurkin is confident that when churches align with the purposes of God, they will experience unity that will cause the gospel to be preached freely with its effects far reaching.

"[God] never ordained the gospel to be preached in the church," he declares.  "He ordained the gospel to be preached in all the world, on the streets where the people are."

If McClurkin comes across emphatically, it's because he is all about the people.  Everyday people.  Commoners.  Persons from every walk of life and upbringing.  He himself carefully avoids the trappings of fame in order to be an effective servant among the people that he leads.  This down-to-earthiness, he believes, allows him to strengthen relationships with his members, all the while pointing them to Jesus rather than himself.

"My church doesn't see me as 'Donnie McClurkin'; they see me as Pastor.  My church doesn't really hear me in concert because I do very few concerts in New York [where the church is]."  McClurkin recalls the time one of his young members became aware of his renown.  "One of the 17 year-olds came to me two years ago...and he said, 'Dog, Pastor, I didn't know you rolled like that!' And that's the key--that I make sure that I am not an icon to them, [but that] I'm a servant to them."
McClurkin has often spoken of leaving the music industry.  The tone in which he speaks on the subject even nowadays enigmatically suggests that a superb vocalist, with both gospel and mainstream success, is a misfit for the business and ready to bow out.  When McClurkin considers the next ten years for instance, he remarks, "I see me being iconically spoken about and never found musically, because I've hung up my musical 'cape.'"  Accordingly, McClurkin looks forward to devoting himself entirely to his pastoral duties and to developing ministries across the country.  Not finished with his thoughts on being iconic, he grapples with the notion again, this time further emphasizing his need to relate to people from all walks of life.

"In the music world people serve you--it's about visibility," he expounds, "how many people have your CD, how many awards do you win, how many platforms of great renown can you stand on, how global is your ministry, how commercial is your appeal."  Then he elaborates on his personal convictions.

"See, I've never been iconic. I don't like the hoopla; so I travel without an entourage.  I don't believe in all this security stuff; I don't like the stuff....I like to sit behind the scenes, and I like to serve."  Sensing that he still hasn't qualified his aversion to fame, McClurkin opens up even more about his disinterest in the fortune, glitz, and bling that so frequently accompany celebrity status.

"I don't receive a salary from my church--never have in ten years, not a red Abraham Lincoln penny.  I don't have a car--forget about driving a luxury car--I don't even have a car.  I don't live in a gated community; I live in the 'hood in Lakeview, where people throw beer cans over in my yard!  'Why Donnie?' Because that's where the people live, and if I'm a servant, I've got to live where the people are.  I can't drive around in a Bentley and see people taking the bus to church....It may be lawful, but it's not expedient to me," he says flatly with a biblical reference to 1 Corinthians 10:23.

Dog, Pastor, we didn't know you rolled like that!  This is McClurkin's point precisely.

"As a minister, you can't serve me; I gotta serve you!"  In pastoring, he says, "It's gotta be 'how low can you go and how high can you lift somebody else?'"

Next week, Donnie McClurkin talks to GMF about McDonald's GospelFest and what he really thinks about competition in gospel music.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Nightingales' Joseph "JoJo" Wallace to be honored with musical celebration

The Sensational Nightingales were one of the fiercest quartet-styled groups of gospel's golden age, and he's been singing and playing professionally with them since 1946, just as that era in gospel music history was budding.  On Saturday, June 11th, quartet legend Brother Joseph "JoJo" Wallace, who is still a lead singer and guitarist for the internationally known quartet will be celebrated for his 65 years of ministry with the group.

"An Evening with Brother Joseph Wallace and Friends" takes place at Durham, NC's Union Baptist Church on 904 N. Roxboro Street and starts at 3:00 PM.  Tributes by The Sensational Nightingales, Darrell and Ricky Luster, John K. Thorpe, New Hope Person Baptist Church Male Chorus under the direction of Libra Nicole Boyd, The Hillian Sisters,  Billy Warden, Evangelist Carolyn Satterfield and others are planned.  A couple of surprise musical guests are also expected to pay tribute.

The event is free and everyone is invited; a freewill offering will be received.  Proceeds go to The Joseph Wallace Scholarship Fund.

Top: Pictured in the circa 1954-55 photo are, clockwise from top:  Willie "Bill" Woodruff, Carl Coates, Joseph "JoJo" Wallace, Ernest James, and Julius "June" Cheeks.   GMF thanks Opal Nations for verifying this caption.

Bottom:  Brother Joseph "JoJo" Wallace ministers in concert with The Sensational Nightingales.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sizzlin' This Week (5/23/11) - "I Hear the Sound"

"I Hear the Sound"
Maurette Brown Clark
From the upcoming CD, The Sound of Victory (Summer 2011)

Maurette Brown Clark's new single, "I Hear the Sound" has been heating up radio and is now available on iTunes.

The energetic praise song is from her soon-to-come fourth project entitled The Sound of Victory, which was recorded live in Norfolk, VA on AIR Gospel/Malaco and features a DVD component.

Encouraging lyrics and a contagious melody make "I Hear the Sound" the perfect soundtrack for your victory party.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

"Back To You" - Dorinda Clark-Cole

"Back To You"
Dorinda Clark-Cole
From the upcoming CD to be released late summer 2011

This is not your mama's Dorinda Clark-Cole.

You--and your mama--have come to know her as the jazzy, churchy one.  Her new single "Back To You" is fresh and her riffs are indeed jazzy; but this track is definitely not churchy.  Nevertheless, such a departure from the Clark-Cole blueprint demonstrates what fans have known all along: this sister can sing anything, and rest assured it will be packed with punch, passion, and power.

Vocally, the legendary Clark sister skillfully sprinkles in some R&B flavor while remaining true to her signature stylings.  It's obvious that "Back To You" is intentionally urban and deliberately Dorinda.

Generations of Clark-Cole fans should truly expect the forthcoming full-length project to have a little something on it for everybody--and their mama.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

North Carolina adds its name to roster of recording mass choirs

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

In a time when many choirs are taking a back seat to church praise teams and ensembles, North Carolina Community Mass Choir (NCCMC) is emerging as a fresh voice in its subgenre.
NCCMC (not to be confused with the North Carolina Mass Choir of the early 1990's), may not be on your radar like Mississippi and Georgia Mass, but it certainly has an impressive team of singers and industry notables at its helm, starting with its visionary Dr. Thomas L. Walker. 

Walker is the pastor of Rocky Mount's Ebenezer Baptist Church.  He is also a notable gospel singer, perhaps best known for his circa 1980 smash hit album One Day At A Time, which earned gold record status.  It was he who formed the choir in 2008 to sing for the National Black Caucus, at the request of Congressman G.K. Butterfield.  NCCMC was under the musical direction of James Bellamy and award-winning songwriter and super-producer Ray Braswell, Jr. (Keith “Wonderboy” Johnson & the Spiritual Voices, F.C. Barnes, Ministree, and others).  According to Braswell, who is the choir's current president, NCCMC had a different moniker at that time.
“The choir was originally named The Promise Choir until leadership changed and I sought after reconstruction for the choir's growth,” comments Braswell.  “Then I met with Malaco's producer and artist, Darrell Luster of Durham, and great songwriter, Brian Foster of Henderson.”
Darrell Luster, formerly of Charles Johnson & The Revivers and The Sensational Nightingales, is the choir’s CEO and primary lead vocalist.  Foster, who is also a musician and leader of the praise and worship group Josiah, is the vice president.

Since its founding, NCCMC has performed on Bobby Jones Gospel, and has provided vocals on projects by The Sensational Nightingales (Live in Rocky Mount), Darrell Luster & F.C. Barnes ("He Won't Change"), and Lil' Blair & The Fantastic Heirs.  

More recently, the 30+ member choir completed its own debut recording, and according to Braswell, there is something on it for gospel music lovers of all kinds.

"We are taking choir music back to the roots to bring back the traditional sound," he says.  "Our CD is full of traditional, praise & worship, and contemporary music, so it's not just for the seasoned saints. It's definitely for all listeners." 

NCCMC is currently seeking additional voices as it preps for the upcoming CD release and a DVD recording.  Braswell invites interested singers to choir auditions on Saturday, May 28, at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Rocky Mount.  Click the flyer above for details.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sizzlin' This Week (5/16/11) - "Say Yeah"

"Say Yeah"
Bobby Perry and RAIN
From the CD, Conquerors (2011)

A lead guitar and its rock-like distortion effects kick off "Say Yeah" by Bobby Perry and RAIN (Royal Agents Influencing Nations).

Bobby Perry, pastor of The Kingdom Church in Massachusetts and a bishop in the Mount Calvary Holy Church of America, Inc., along with RAIN, a roster of talented and highly skilled singers (many of whom are Berklee alumni) reach across cultures with relevant lyrics and multi-genre musical elements to create this foot-stomper of a praise.

"Say Yeah" is from the group's sophomore project, Conquerors, which was released Tuesday, May 10th.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

"Something to Live For" - LaShun Pace

"Something to Live For"
LaShun Pace
From the upcoming CD, Reborn (Available June 28, 2011)
LaShun Pace is coming off of a four year hiatus to bring us Reborn, which drops Tuesday, June 28th.  Her single, "Something to Live For," makes me not want to wait.

The tune, which has the Pace Sisters' sound all over it, is Pace's personal testimony, I suspect.  Afterall, the the lyrics are telling: "I was ready to give up, throw in the towel. Sickness in the body made me so tired; even when I heard God's word, I found it heavy to receive. I believed death was best for me, but the power of God arrested me and said I've got to live and declare His healing to the nations!"

After sharing from her personal experience, the powerhouse (whom Dr. Bobby Jones once compared to Mahalia Jackson) commands all who are faced with the temptation to call it quits to live and not die, for they have "something to live for!"

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Gospel music documentary features legends, hits theaters June 3

Rejoice and Shout is a new gospel music documentary that opens in theaters June 3rd.  The San Francisco International Film Festival calls it "the most thoroughly researched and exhaustive film about African-American gospel music ever committed to film."

The documentary features interviews from Smokey Robinson, Ira Tucker, Anthony Heilbut and Mavis Staples among others, and a lot of footage from pioneers and legends including Rosetta Tharpe, The Dixie Hummingbirds, Mahalia Jackson, Rev. James Cleveland, The Blind Boys of Alabama, The Staples Singers, and Andrae Crouch.

If you are a gospel music enthusiast, the Rejoice and Shout trailer is sure to whet your appetite.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Sizzlin' This Week (5/9/11) - "We Cry Out"

"We Cry Out"
Wil E. Coleman
From the CD, The Necessity Project: A Night of Worship & Giving (2010)

I had the privilege of hearing Wil E. Coleman for the first time in 2009.  He was a featured guest at the live recording for a Pelham, NC ensemble called Visionz of Priase.  His was one of the memorable performances of the evening--for his sheer talent, sincere worship, and earnest delivery.

A year and a half later, toward the close of 2010, the youth pastor and minister of music at New Jerusalem Cathedral & Monument of Praise Ministries released The Necessity Project: A Night of Worship & Giving, a 15 track project that features "We Cry Out" (which is also available as a single).  Coleman invites us to come to God with an open heart and yielded spirit, crying out for more of Him: our Father, our Savior, our Healer, our Ruler. 

How deeply we rely on God as our Everything in times like these!

Sizzlin' This Week is the GMF editor's gospel music pick of the week from her personal playlist.  Every style. Every era.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

"Holy is Our God" - James Fortune & FIYA featuring Tye Tribbett

"Holy is Our God"
James Fortune & FIYA ft. Tye Tribbett

James Fortune recently told his Twitter followers that "Holy is Our God" was one of his favorites from his last album Encore.  Just prior to that tweet, the four time ASCAP award winning songwriter tweeted the link to a version of the worship anthem that features him with gospel sensation and ultra hyper performer Tye Tribbett.

This version of "Holy is Our God" offers us, as usual, Fortune's passionately emotional delivery.  Enter Tye Tribbett about two minutes in to take the song to higher heights, exclaiming over FIYA's escalating refrains that his worship belongs to the Father.  You can take a listen at Tweet My Song.

The beginning of this week, Fortune was working on music with his group for a CD that's scheduled to drop January 15, 2012.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Raleigh-Durham radio personality uses voice to inspire on, off air

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

Carolyn Pettiford-Ryals lights up the WNCU-90.7FM airwaves nearly every Sunday morning with traditional choir and quartet gospel music.  As co-host of "Hallelujah Praise," the Raleigh-Durham radio personality believes in using her voice and popularity to encourage her listeners--a weekly audience of more than 40,000, not counting the online streamers.

Last year, when God spoke to her about inspiring and uplifting women in a personal and more intimate way, she heeded; the result was a retreat called "It's You And Me."  Following the first successful event, Pettiford-Ryals received testimonies from women whom she says were "released from emotional hurt and bondage."  She sensed that the fellowship must continue, and that healing was to become its primary focus.

"[It's for] healing souls and healing the broken-hearted," says Pettiford-Ryals.  "Sometimes you're in bondage emotionally and you can't tell people what you feel.  In the retreats, there is freedom to share your experiences and how to get through them."

The atmosphere is relaxed and supportive--it's a safe haven.  In fact, one of the ground rules is that what is shared within the sessions is held in confidence among attendees.

"Some of the things [disclosed] are so personal, that in order for healing to take place, the people have to know this is a safe place to open up," expresses Pettiford-Ryals.

Each topic of discussion is decided through prayer.  Grief, sickness, and betrayal are among the topics that have been covered so far.  Last year, a health segment was implemented to bring awareness to women's health issues.

"With each retreat, I plan to implement a little more."

Pettiford-Ryals adds, "The retreats are so powerful!  People don't even want to leave the room to go to the restroom....the Spirit is so high and it rests so sweetly."

The next "It's You and Me" Women's Retreat is set for this Saturday, May 7.

Place:  Millennium Hotel
Time:  9am - 4pm (breakfast bar is 9-10am)
Registration: $30 per person

Click the flyer for more details.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Live from Los Angeles – Vol. 2 - Beverly Crawford

Beverly Crawford
Live from Los Angeles - Vol. 2
JDI Records (2010)

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

Recall Bobby Jones and New Life’s glory days and you will readily recall the voice that made the group a favorite throughout the early 90’s.  Several solo projects, a Grammy nomination, and a Stellar award win later, Beverly Crawford returned again in September with Live from Los Angeles – Vol. 2, and we can see she is still giving God the glory, ministering to His people, and singing us into frenzies.

The project’s opening number “It’s About Time for a Miracle,” set to what may as well be called “shouting music,” ignites the fire that burns throughout the album.  By the time "Miracle" graduates to its vamp, I can most certainly envision that Crawford and her audience are singing, praising, and pickin' 'em up and puttin' 'em down all at the same time.

Next up is "It's So," a tempo contrast to the preceding track.  Crawford, who serves as co-pastor at Gainesville Family Worship Center with her husband Todd, delivers the verses just like the singing preacher that she is.  By the song's end, the preacher is in high gear, exhorting us in sermonette fashion to "name it, claim it, believe it, accept it--it is so!"

From there, she sprinkles a fair amount of quartet-flavored seasoning on the Doug Williams-penned "Born Again," making the choir tune just right for down-home Sunday morning church.  She then reminds us that she not only can take us to church, but can also lead us into worship with the self-penned “For Who You Are"--easily the centerpiece of this project.

Another standout is “Everything Will Be Alright” (written by Shawn McLemore), the James Brown-esque groove with sassy, brassy horns for which Crawford and her friend and industry contemporary Shirley Murdock team up. As expected, the two make a great tag team, taking turns with the soaring lead vocals.  (You'll likely be hearing them again on Murdock's upcoming live CD/DVD.  See GMF's related post here.)  "Serve You Well" is the beautiful ballad that follows.  Then Crawford is joined by her youngest daughter, Latrina Crawford, on “Radical Praise.”  It's "I Need A Word" however, where Latrina's vocality as a soloist shines.

Rounding out the project is "Marvelous," written by Myron Butler and Ted Winn.  Crawford brings Murdock back in the reprise to riff over the climactic vamp, and the two have us headed straight into another frenzy.

With Michael Bereal and Professor James Roberson handling the production of this project, Live in Los Angeles - Vol. 2 encompasses all that we've come to enjoy about Beverly Crawford’s ministry through the years and affirms why she remains a force to be reckoned with among today's female traditional gospel artists.


"Born Again" - "For Who You Are" - "Everything Will Be Alright" - "Marvelous"

Fever Meter
SMOKIN' (4 of 5 Stars)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Sizzlin' This Week (5/2/11) - "Brand Nu Lyfe"

"Brand Nu Lyfe"
C. Lewis ft. E-quipped
Available free via email:

If you're old enough to remember 1980's TV, then "Brand Nu Lyfe" will definitely sound familiar.  One reason (the obvious one) is because the hip-hop track opens with a sample of the theme song from popular sitcom Who's the Boss?  The other reason is because C. Lewis is both creative and intentional enough to merge the familiar and the foreign, thereby creating a really relatable song with a broad appeal.

In "Brand Nu Lyfe," which incorporates rap combined with melodic singing on the hooks, Lewis and Greensboro, NC based gospel artist E-quipped (who are also the track's producers), rap about life's ups and downs and the hope for better days ahead.  Lewis says that amid a backslidden state, he remained connected to music, but struggled with the right concept for the theme song idea.  Once he returned to Christ, however, he experienced a renewal that caused everything to come together.

"Sometime last winter I was making beats at home, and I came across that theme song again," he says.  "It just came to me as clear as day in the last sentence: nights are long but you might awaken to a brand new life around the bend.  With all I was and am currently going through, it serves as a very fitting reminder that in Christ, there's always hope for a new start."

In addition to reconnecting with Christ, Lewis also hooked up again with his friend of 10 years, Emil Goergen III, better known as E-quipped.  The two were once part of a group called Remnant Flame.  Now they're back together, ministering through their music and giving others hope for a "Brand Nu Lyfe."

Sizzlin' This Week is the GMF editor's gospel music pick of the week from her personal playlist.  Every style. Every era.