DisClaimer: A Soul Cleansing

Reverend Lawrence D. Thomison

Reverend Lawrence D. Thomison

It’s time for a soul cleansing. Our journey begins this week at the Eastside Gospel Music Store on Gallatin Pike near Trinity Lane. Owner Jeffrey Wilford maintains a rack of CDs there by Nashville-based artists. It reveals that CeCe Winans, Take 6, Bobby Jones, BeBe Winans and The McCrary Sisters are merely the tip of a very large iceberg of local African-American religious singers. From that rack comes our Disc of the Day by the Rev. Lawrence Thomison. I bought the DisCovery Award winner there, as well. She is Karen Clark Sheard. Rounding out this Christian-music column are three of the genre’s mainstream stars. Among them is Jason Crabb, who is essential listening.

EVERETT DRAKE/Amen Goes Right There
Writers: Derrick Lee/Everett Drake; Producer: Derrick Lee; Publishers: Dherico/Alkian/Conexion, SESAC/BMI; DM (track)
-The title tune to Drake’s current CD is a big-production, synth-dominated ballad with socially conscious lyrics. A soaring choir answers his earnest tenor entreaties. This Nashville singer has performed as a backup vocalist for Bonnie Raitt, Lyle Lovett, Donna Fargo, Barbara Mandrell, Brooks & Dunn, Brenda Lee, Wynonna, Eddie Rabbitt, Martina McBride and Garth Brooks and is a featured vocalist on the Bobby Jones Gospel TV show on BET.

Writers: DeWitt Johnson; Producer: Daniel Miree; Publisher: none listed; Commandment
-His group The James Johnson Ensemble has earned a Gold Record and a Grammy nomination, and he has a local TV show that airs on Channel 5+ and Fox Channel 17. Johnson is noted for his songwriting ability, as this title track of his current CD reflects. His hoarse, urgent, penetrating vocal delivery suggests that he is a dynamic live performer. Recommended.

Writers: D. Weatherspoon/B. Washington; Producers: Daniel Weatherspoon and Virgil Straford; Publishers: Spoonfed/MySymone; ASCAP; Shanachie (track)
-This soulful, funky, horn-punctuated track kicks off her CD with panache. Her wailing delivery remains pretty much at the top of her vocal range throughout the track. Fortunately, she tones it down elsewhere on the album.

REV. LAWRENCE THOMISON/Great Is Thy Faithfulness
Writers: T. Chisholm/W. Runyan; Producers: Jonathan Winstead & Chris Carr; Publisher: Hope, ASCAP; Lawrence (track)
-I have been a big fan of this guy ever since his days of recording for New Haven Records on Music Row. He remains a gripping, soul-piercing stylist on his current collection, Hymns of the Church. On this standard, he deploys superb vocal dynamics, ranging from a whisper to a hair-raising shout. A mighty, mighty man.

Writer: Elder Zeek McPhee; Producers: Chris Carr and Jonathan Winstead; Publisher: none listed, BMI; EZM (track)
-This has an old-timey feel with its simple piano and hand-claps accompaniment. He pauses in mid-song for a spoken-word, “testifying” passage about his conversion as a boy in the Bahamas. Sincerity is the hallmark here, rather than vocal athleticism.

Karen Clark Sheard

Karen Clark Sheard

Writers: Israel Houghton/Aaron Lindsey; Producers: Karen Clark Sheard, Israel Houghton and Aaron Lindsey; Publisher: Integrity’s Praise/Aaron Lindsey, BMI; Word/Curb/Warner
-Most of Sheard’s It’s Not Over CD is recorded live. Among the three studio tracks is this lustrous ballad. As a singer, she is capable of both ecstatic, “in the spirit” shouting and the sweet, lilting, caressing delivery displayed here. In any mode, she is a powerhouse.

Writer: Howard Wilks, Jr.; Producer: Howard Wilks, Jr.; Publisher: none listed, BMI; HW (track)
-The Original Voices of Nashville are the Rev. Howard Kelly Wilkes, Howard Kelly Wilkes Jr., Chanita D. Caldwell and Carmelita D. Wilkes. They stir the soul on their CD. This title tune, for instance, boasts thumping rhythm and mesmerizing, call-and-response vocals featuring extemporaneous interjections and shout-outs from all four singers. Definitely back to church.

MATT MAHER/Lord, I Need You
Writers: Matt Maher/Jesse Reeves/Kristian Stanfill/Christy Nockels/Daniel Carson; Producer: Paul Moak; Publishers: Thankyou/EMI CMG/worshiptogether.com/sixsteps/Sweater Weather/Valley of Songs, PRS/ASCAP/BMI; Provident/Essential
-This Nashvillian is unusual in the CCM field in that he is Catholic. His CD All the People Said Amen collects 13 of his favorites, including this inspiring, intensely sung shout of praise that begins softly and builds to a crescendo. Dazzling.

STEVEN CURTIS CHAPMAN/Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus
Writers: Louisa M.R. Stead/William J. Kilpatrick; Producer: Brent Milligan and Steven Curtis Chapman; Publisher: none listed; Cracker Barrel
-Christian superstar Chapman is marketing his Deep Roots CD via Cracker Barrel. It’s a collection of standards interpreted in acoustic arrangements that reflect his Kentucky childhood. On this lead-off track, he is accompanied by mandolin strums, keening fiddle and sighing dobro. Ricky Skaggs guests on “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” A refreshing change of pace for this always involving stylist.

JASON CRABB/Love Is Stronger
Writers: none listed; Producers: Jay DeMarcus, Ed Cash and Wayne Haun; Publisher: none listed; Gaither (track)
-This guy gets me every time. His searing tenor delivery is a burning arrow of soul power. On the title tune of his new CD, he sends shivers up and down your spine with each note. If you haven’t heard this man sing, you haven’t lived. Thrilling in the extreme.


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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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