“Walk On Walker” – Faithful of Milton, NC

“Walk On Walker”
Faithful (October 2023)
Facebook: Faithful of Milton, NC

Faithful of Milton, NC cover art  Walk On Walker

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

Milton, North Carolina’s Faithful delivers a compelling message in their single “Walk On Walker,” produced by Antwon Timmons of Perfect Peace Music. Lead vocalist Danny Stewart encourages listeners to rise above negativity and gossip, drawing parallels to the unwarranted criticism faced by Jesus Christ.

While Faithful is rooted in traditional gospel, they could stride confidently down to a blues or soul festival with the music and message of “Walk On Walker” and leave a memorable impression.

“Set Me On Fire” – Gina Lloyd

“Set Me On Fire”
Gina Lloyd
Destiny Records (Dec. 19, 2023)

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

Gina Lloyd "Set Me On Fire" cover art

Gina Lloyd, psalmist and worship leader, recently dropped the single, “Set Me On Fire,” and it’s been making rounds on social media, even becoming the soundtrack for local and overseas dance challenges with its Afrobeat vibe.

The song unfolds with Gina’s invitation to the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit: “I feel you—your presence all around me / I want you to consume me / Consume me with your fire.” Yet, what’s striking is the juxtaposition of her light, occasionally airy vocals with the fiery imagery of the lyrics, especially by the time she proclaims, “I’m on fire!”

Lloyd is at home in the music industry, having sung backup for artists such as Josh Groban, Alicia Keys, and Melonie Daniels. She embraced her calling as a psalmist in 2006.

Overall, “Set Me On Fire” doesn’t quite deliver the intensity I expected from a song with that title, but that’s also what makes it worth a listen; it captivates in its own right. My sense is that a live worship setting gives “Set Me On Fire” adequate fuel to engulf the atmosphere.

Melvin Crispell, III spreads Christmas cheer with ‘The First Noel’

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

Melvin Crispell, III releases single titled "The First Noel.

Since winning the ninth season of BET’s Sunday Best, Melvin Crispell, III has made waves as a solo artist who connects to the present generation of gospel music lovers while embracing a rich musical heritage passed down to him from his late parents, composer Melvin Crispell, Jr. and singer Tunesha Crispell. This year, in the spirit of the Yuletide season, the Grammy-nominated gospel artist delightedly released his latest holiday single, “The First Noel.”

In his heartfelt rendition, Melvin imbues the traditional Christmas carol with the spirit of a worship leader, softly and tenderly at first—as if serenading the Christ Child himself, before his tenor voice soars in adoration of the King of Israel. Melvin was intent on creating a seasonal piece that broke free from the monotony of recycled holiday music, and he teamed up with producer Chuck Butler to make it happen. 

“There were a few song choices that came across for Christmas,” Melvin shared with GMF by phone recently. “There were a lot of different ones that had been done over and over again for years. And so we were trying to figure out a good one that not many people have done before, or not many people have redone recently. And so we came across ‘The First Noel’ and thought, this will be an amazing take on a Christmas classic.” 

Melvin also had the privilege to perform the single on the “Stellar Tribute to the Holidays,” an experience he describes fondly.

“To be able to take [the single] and almost immediately [have] the opportunity to perform at the Stellar Christmas special, that was absolutely amazing. I got to see so many friends and familiar faces, and we all came together to have a good time and just do what we do best.”

 “The First Noel” is available on all digital outlets. Additionally, you can catch Melvin’s performance on the “Stellar Tribute to the Holidays.” For TV airdates and times specific to your state, please visit stellarawards.com.

In an upcoming feature, Melvin talks to GMF about his current project (No Failure), Grammy award nomination, and legacy of faith.

I Walked Out In Jesus Name – 1947–1970 – The Black Gospel Ladies (Various Artists)

The Black Gospel Ladies (Various Artists)
I Walked Out In Jesus Name – 1947–1970
Gospel Friend-NarroWay Records (2023)

The Black Gospel Ladies CD art work

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

Sweden-based producer Per Notini of Gospel Friend Records presents traditional gospel music lovers a three-disc reissue of gospel pearls with the release of I Walked Out In Jesus Name – 1947–1970. The effort, comprised of songs spanning more than two decades, features Black all-female and primarily female gospel groups, choirs, and soloists.

In the 1940s, Black gospel music was a blooming genre primarily performed in churches and religious events. By the end of the decade, there was an increase in the recording and broadcasting of gospel music, which enabled gospel artists to reach audiences beyond their local communities. Gospel music continued to expand in the 1950s with the growing popularity of quartets and groups, and in the 1960s as gospel choirs flourished. Throughout the time period, gospel music lyrics perpetuated messages of faith, hope, and resilience.

The roster of artists, of whom Notini refers collectively as “The Black Gospel Ladies,” includes well known acts like the Caravans, Clara Ward Singers, Roberta Martin Singers, Dionne Warwick featuring the Drinkard Singers, Mahalia Jackson and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, as well as lesser known singers of comparable talent like the Detroit Harmonettes, Ruth Beck Singers, Spiritual Singers for Christ, Evelyn Tyler and The Tyler Singers, and Alberta Kay Williams.

With songs arranged alphabetically by artist name, the 83-track offering opens with Sister Beatrice Adams’ recording of Robert Anderson’s “Prayer Changes Things.” The Minnie Woods Trio, thought to be an amateur ensemble, closes the project with “I’m In His Care.” An accompanying CD booklet includes artist bios and photos.

My preference would be to hear this multi-CD compilation chronologically so as to experience an even greater appreciation of the progression of gospel music over the 23-year span. Yet, regardless of order, the disc set is filled with treats. The Ruth Beck Singers’ joyous “His Love Bubbles Over In My Soul” is one. Another is “Meet Me In the City,” which the Choraliers Singers of Dayton drive with all the intensity of a live performance. Likewise does Mary Lee Haynie sing with verve, leading the Gore Family on “By My Side.” Dionne Warwick’s rendering of James Cleveland’s “Jesus Will” with her family, The Drinkard Singers, is simply delightful.

Notini writes in the album notes, “From the very beginning of Christianity, certain Bible passages were used by the male clergy to justify the discrimination of women. Yet, while the men have dominated the leadership in the American black church, the females have held—and still hold—a crucial position in it.” As such, it seems wholly appropriate that “I Walked Out In Jesus Name,” penned by Evelyn and Mildred Gay and sung assertively by Christine Sykes (mother of Georgia Mass Choir founder Rev. Milton Biggham), is the title track for this project.

I walked right out in Jesus’ name
I’ve been falsely accused, so many times I bear the blame
I’m gon’ live a Christian life—I’m not ashamed
Yes, I’m gon’ talk, keep walking in my Jesus’ name

Notini’s curated selection of recordings for I Walked Out In Jesus Name – 1947–1970 showcases the genre’s big names as well as unsung greats. Notwithstanding my wish for a chronological listening journey, the presentations of these gospel classics from “The Black Gospel Ladies” worthily exemplify the enduring power of gospel music.

“His Love Bubbles Over In My Soul” – “Meet Me In the City” – “Jesus Will”

Fever Meter
SMOKIN’ (4 of 5 Stars)

“You’re Gonna Win” – Johnny Ruffin, Jr.

“You’re Gonna Win”
Johnny Ruffin, Jr.
JBP Music Entertainment (2023)

This is the art work for the single "You're Gonna Win" by Johnny Ruffin, Jr.

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

Johnny Ruffin, Jr. is a singer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist. No newcomer to the gospel music scene, he presents his current offering, “You’re Gonna Win.”

Ruffin touches on the unpredictability of life’s journey within the verses of his self-penned single. Nevertheless, he encourages, “Just hold on and be strong; you’re gonna win.” His measured and heartfelt delivery underscores his understanding of life’s highs and lows while desiring to convey a much-needed message of inspiration.

Among Ruffin’s accolades are multiple Rhythm of Gospel Awards, a DunAmis Gospel Award, and the President’s Award from the American Gospel Quartet Convention. His commitment to music that uplifts is yet evident in “You’re Gonna Win.”

“It’s Morning” – Latrice Pace

“It’s Morning”
Latrice Pace
From the project, Exodus: The Journey of Obedience, Vol. 2 (2023)

Latrice Pace in a field of sunflowers on her artwork

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

Latrice Pace, bearing the legacy of her esteemed family’s gospel music tradition, takes us on a portion of her remarkable journey with “It’s Morning.” This uplifting track was released as the single just ahead of her current album, Exodus: The Journey to Obedience, Vol. 2.

While the Pace name is synonymous with gospel greatness, Latrice brings a fresh and vibrant twist to the genre in “It’s Morning.” Dismiss the notion that it’s a traditional or churchy gospel tune. Instead, the song bursts to life with lively vocals and an infectious hook, showcasing Latrice’s versatility as a singer and songwriter and Brien Andrews’ prowess as a producer.

The lyrics spring from Psalm 143:8, capturing the joy and hope that wash over us at the dawn of a new day. It’s a musical testament to trust in an unfailing God, a reminder that even after the darkest night, the morning brings renewal. “It’s Morning” will make you smile, twirl, dance, praise, and send air hugs to the heavens.

“Lover of My Soul” – Kateri B

“Lover of My Soul” feat. Mike Teezy
Kateri B
Indie (2023)

"Lover of My Soul" Kateri B art work

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

Kateri B gained national attention following her appearance on the second season of The Four starring Sean “Diddy” Combs, DJ Khaled, Megan Trainor, and Fergie. Her fan base expanded, but they would end up having to wait for new music while she toured with Grammy-winning gospel artist Jonathan McReynolds.

“Lover of My Soul” is Kateri Bluford’s current single, in which she expresses her need for Jesus and His incomparable love. The urban contemporary hip-hop track incorporates elements of soul and R&B, giving a nod to neo-soul. She is joined by inspirational hip-hop artist Mike Teezy.

“Can’t Nobody Remix” – Christopher Gray

Christopher Gray
“Can’t Nobody Remix”
Indie (2023)

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

Christopher Gray is a musician, songwriter, producer, and recording artist who sings of the incomparable love of Jesus in his current single, “Can’t Nobody Remix.”

Born and raised in the inner-city part of Jackson, MS as the sixth of seven children, Christopher became acquainted with poverty, struggle, and eventually even incarceration—which he mentions in the opening verse of the remix—before coming into awareness of his purpose and using his musical gifts for the Lord as a praise and worship leader and recording artist.

Christopher’s vocal on “Can’t Nobody Remix” is warm but eclipsed by the tight background harmonies that carry the song. Still, the track is a nice addition to your summer/fall car playlist.

“Nothing Left” – Jaicko Lawrence

Jaicko Lawrence "Nothing Left" CD artwork

“Nothing Left” feat. Kingservant
Jaicko Lawrence
Indie (2023)

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

Jaicko Lawrence is a Barbadian singer-songwriter with writing credits for Akon, J-Hope, and Jay Sean, to name a few. After giving his life to Jesus, he redirected the focus of his singing and writing. “Windows” became his first big writing placement, appearing on Pastor Mike, Jr.’s Impossible album.

Recently, Jaicko released his own single titled “Nothing Left.” It’s an introspective urban contemporary/dance hall/reggae song that lifts up themes of faith and perseverance with the repeating rhetorical question, “Who can give me rest, the kind that’s for my soul when I’ve got nothing left?” alongside other lyrical declarations like, “I just keep on looking to the hills; that’s where my help comes.” Jaicko is joined on this single by reggae artist Kingservant.

“Forgive Me” – Andrea René

“Forgive Me”
Andrea René
Inspirational Song Factory (2023)

Andrea René CD artwork

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

Popularized by disco sensation Donna Summer, “Forgive Me” is gospel artist Andrea René’s latest recorded song offering, made available this year on July 7, which was Global Forgiveness Day. The track is produced by keyboardist Ruth Goolsby and released on Andrea René’s own Inspirational Song Factory label.

Andrea René approaches “Forgive Me,” written by Reba Rambo and Dony McGuire (and quite the opposite of a disco tune), with passion and tenderness. She graces the mic alone, supported with layers of piano and strings. The emphasis is squarely on the lyrics—a prayer that she sends soaring into the heavens. The petition is for God to help her forgive others as He has forgiven her.

Andrea René is a 25-year music industry veteran. The vocalist, songwriter, pianist, and producer was groomed in gospel by former choir directors Richard Smallwood, Byron Cage, and Ricky Dillard. She has plans to release a new EP later this year.