“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.

Life of L. Stanley Davis to be celebrated with musical homegoing service

L. Stanley Davis

The life of L. Stanley Davis will be celebrated this Sunday, August 20, 2023, with a musical homegoing service at Chicago’s First Church of Deliverance. The service begins at 4 pm, with family hour and visitation one hour prior. Davis, 71, died on August 2, 2023.

I have traveled to Chicago on multiple occasions. Never have I visited without being in the presence of Professor Davis. He was a lover of gospel music and its history with the gift of gab and ability to recall historical information in acute detail. He is already greatly missed.

Here is an excerpt of the obituary from Cannon Funeral Services:

Lurell Stanley Davis was born April 4, 1952, in Baltimore, Maryland—the only child—born to the late William Lurell Davis and Annie Laura Winston Davis. Mrs. Davis helped to raise and nurture her late brother’s two children—Stanley’s first cousins Mena Suzette Winston and Reginald O. Winston of Washington, DC. Stanley was a bright, inquisitive, music-savvy boy who thrived in school and in his home church, the historic Morning Star Baptist Church. By age 7, Stanley’s love of being front-and-center in church sparked his budding musical talent on the piano, singing and directing. That early spotlight earned him local fame as the “church boy who does it all.

Stanley was also a standout student academically, earning a scholarship to attend the private and prestigious Friends School of Baltimore. Up late every Sunday evening, Stanley often recalled how he ended his busy Sundays by staying up till midnight east coast time to listen to the live 11 pm radio broadcast of First Church of Deliverance. He matriculated at Northwestern University in Evanston in the fall of 1969. Bingo, that set the stage for Stanley’s love affair with everything Chicago! As a college first-year student, Stanley frequently took CTA trains and buses all over Chicago to learn and experience the city’s rich variety of different Black worship experiences and their unique musical styles. Already a gospel music savant from Baltimore, Stanley used Chicago as a living classroom. The excited, musically gifted teenager continued growing his encyclopedic knowledge and talent as a gospel performer, musician, director, teacher, historian and eventually a renowned expert—affectionately known as Professor L. Stanley Davis. Stanley used his trademark “bigger-than-life” personality, his broad easy smile, and his genuine nature to listen and learn from others while using his compassion to uplift and motivate just about anyone who ever crossed his path in this lifetime. Stanley proudly proclaimed, “I march to a different drummer’s beat.” In the process, Stanley became lifelong personal friends with Chicago’s gospel royalty—Julia Mae Kennedy, Ralph Goodpasture, the “Father of Gospel” Thomas A. Dorsey, the Barrett Sisters, Rev. Milton Brunson, Audrea Lenox, Albertina Walker, Sallie Martin, and Vernon Oliver Price. The teenage devotee’s most defining move was joining the nation’s oldest, premiere community choir, the fabled Wooten Choral Ensemble (WCE).

By the end of his sophomore year in college, Stanley’s Chicago discovery slowed down. Dr. Eileen Cherry-Chandler and Clifton Gerring, III, then both fellow Northwestern University upper-class students, finally convinced Stanley to become the founding artistic director of the Northwestern Community Ensemble (NCE) on May 8, 1971. Stanley proudly credited his musical blueprint for NCE directly from his firsthand experience with the WCE playbook. Stanley insisted NCE perform more than just gospel music—just like his beloved time in the Wootens. He demanded a repertoire of mastering, without sheet music in hand, anthems, Negro spirituals, and classic church hymns. After 53 years, Stanley’s musical dream continues to fill a spiritual void on Northwestern’s predominately white campus and throughout the Chicago community. NCE celebrated 52 years in May 2023, and is moving forward to celebrate “55 years of Stanley’s dream and legacy” in May 2026.

Musical homegoing flyer

After graduating from Northwestern in 1974 with a degree in Sociology with a focus on Urban Affairs, Stanley excelled in two high-tech corporate gigs with the old Illinois Bell Telephone Company and Montgomery Wards Signature Group. But by the late ‘70s, Stanley refocused his professional career on Black sacred music and teaching. Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne recruited noted Chicago Tribune music and arts critic and lecturer of music at Northwestern, Thomas Willis, to draft a plan for an International Music Festival. Willis tapped young Stanley to help him develop the plan. Tom and Stanley by this time were old music colleagues. When Willis taught Stanley in his music appreciation class in 1972, he turned a 15-minute presentation assignment on gospel music into a fact-filled, interactive hour. A stickler for details, Stanley concluded his presentation over three more entire class sessions later. Still as a Northwestern undergraduate student, Willis offered Stanley to teach six for-credit courses on the gospel music tradition, which included mandatory field trips to Chicago church services! From that humble teaching start, the Professor shared his ever-growing wealth of gospel, ethnic music knowledge, and performance studies as an adjunct instructor at Chicago’s Loyola University, University of Chicago, and DePaul University.

In the early ’90s, Northwestern invited Stanley back as a graduate student with a joint appointment to teach history and music in the African American Studies Department (now known as the Global Black Studies Department) and in the Bienen School of Music. While present on campus he became a faculty advisor/voice coach to his baby, NCE. In June 1997, Stanley earned his Master of Arts degree.

Over the years Stanley has achieved several firsts under the broad musical umbrella organization he created, Gospel Arts Workshop (GAW).

The full obituary can be viewed here.

GMF joins countless others in prayer for the family, friends, colleagues, and mentees of Professor L. Stanley Davis.

R.I.H. Jack Dempsey Winstead, quartet singer and guitarist

Jack Dempsey Winstead, quartet singer and guitarist

A homegoing service took place Wednesday (Aug. 15) in Roxboro, NC for Jack Dempsey “Demp” Winstead, 75, who passed August 11.

Winstead was remembered as a loving family member and friend as well as a singer and guitar player who shared his talent with several North Carolina-based groups including the Silver Stars of Blanch, Souls of Calvary from Franklinton, and for a time, the Brooklyn Allstars (whose founding member Rev. Thomas Spann transitioned last week, one day before Winstead).

Artis Swann, formerly of the Brower Brothers, was among those who comforted the family in song at the homegoing celebration.

GMF extends deep condolences to the Winstead family during this emotional time.

Haywood Barnes of the Sunset Jubilaires passes on

GMF extends sympathy to the Barnes family in the passing of Mr. Haywood Barnes on August 14, 2023, at the age of 82.

Haywood was a longtime member of the Sunset Jubilaires, organized by his brother, the late Bishop F.C. Barnes. According to Bishop Barnes in a bio on the Red Budd Holy Church website, “After I was called into the ministry and began pastoring, it took me away from the group, so my brother Haywood took over as lead singer.”

Haywood Barnes leads “I’m Going On” with the Sunset Jubilaires while other quartet greats look on.

Haywood’s nephew, Rev. Luther Barnes, eventually became the Jubilaires’ primary lead singer with Haywood continuing to share both lead and background chores. Other Barnes family members also rounded out the lineup.

A public viewing is scheduled for Saturday, August 19, at 10 am at Red Budd Holy Church in Rocky Mount, NC. The celebration of life service follows at 11.

Celebration of life flyer for Haywood Barnes

Homegoing services announced for Rev. Thomas Spann, founding member of Brooklyn Allstars

Thomas Spann of the Brooklyn Allstars died August 10, 2023.

Homegoing services have been announced for Rev. Thomas Spann, founding member of the Brooklyn Allstars. Rev. Spann transitioned on August 10, 2023. He was 98. 

A musical celebration takes place Friday, August 18. The celebration of life service follows on Saturday, August 19, with viewing prior to the service. Both services will be held at New Light Missionary Baptist Church in Greensboro, NC, and streamed live on the Serenity Funeral Home Cremation Live YouTube page.  Further details are available on the Serenity Funeral Home and Cremations website.

GMF joins the gospel community in extending condolences to his wife Donna, the entire Spann family, and the Brooklyn Allstars.

In June 2013, I interviewed Rev. Spann prior to a concert featuring the Brooklyn Allstars in Roxboro, NC. In his memory, a portion of the interview is reprinted below.

Brooklyn Allstars’ Thomas Spann reflects on “signature sound that I didn’t realize I had”

A fan approaches Rev. Thomas Spann sporting a wide grin and extending a slightly trembling hand, hailing, “The Legend! The Legend!” Rev. Spann graciously returns the gesture, “My man! Good to see you,” making apparent that he appreciates his supporters as much as they appreciate him. Admiration for the quartet veteran is immediately perceivable by the number of fan interruptions that continue throughout our early evening interview just prior to one of the Brooklyn Allstars’ concerts.

Rev. Spann tells me he organized the Brooklyn Allstars in 1948. Since then, he has worked the gospel circuit with his group’s instantaneously recognizable styling, which is directly attributed to his own bass vocals. Along the way, they’ve racked up a couple of gold records (“They say they were gold; I just say they were good,” Rev. Spann interjects) and toured extensively. Now, at 88 years old, Rev. Spann is assisted by a cane and sits onstage with mic in hand during some of the group’s mild numbers such as “No Cross, No Crown.” But you can rest assured that his voice still booms and when the Spirit moves him on tunes like “Stood on the Banks of Jordan,” he springs from his chair to join in with group member Sonny McClary, with whom he now shares lead tasks. Theirs is a sound that stands apart in traditional quartet music.

“I guess that’s what I say the longevity or success of the group is attributed to—the signature sound that I didn’t realize I had for a lot of years until I got a chance to compare it to a lot of other artists; then I realized it was so different that I decided to change it one time,” reflects Spann. He admits that the group almost lost its following when he tried to alter it.

“I was rejected; I had no idea I had that many fans, and I didn’t know that that many people cared one way or another, you know, about what we were doing.”

They still care. As a matter of fact, their loyal fan base is what keeps them going more than six decades later. 

“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.

“This Joy” – Torrance Rudd

“This Joy”
Torrance Rudd
Indie (2023)

Torrance Rudd single cover

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

Born and raised in a family of singers and musicians, Torrance Rudd started rapping at the age of 11. Since accepting Jesus as his Lord and Savior at 18, he has dedicated himself and his music to glorifying God. He testifies to the joy of being the King’s kid in his urban contemporary single, “This Joy.”

Torrance grabs hold of a familiar church cliché—”this joy that I have, the world didn’t give it to me”—and attaches his personal testimony of salvation and renewal. I expected rap but Torrance sings melodiously over a modest R&B chord progression heavily punctuated with synths and percussion. It’s a feel-good message with a skate party vibe.

“I need you to forget about your problems, grab your loved one by the hand, and take them to the dance floor ’cause it’s about to go down!” Torrance calls out near the end of the track.

Bruh, we’ve been dancing the whole time!

38th Annual Stellar Gospel Music Awards announces winners

Stellar Awards logo

It was a wonderful night for Pastor Mike, Jr. at the 38th Annual Stellar Gospel Awards, held this weekend at the Las Vegas New Orleans Arena. The Birmingham pastor and singer had his hands and arms full with a total of eight awards, including Stellars for Album of the Year (Winning), Song of the Year (“Impossible”), and Artist of the Year.

DOE collected three statues for her Clarity album: Albertina Walker Female Artist of the Year, Contemporary Female Artist of the Year, and Urban/Inspirational Single or Performance of the Year (“When I Pray”). Zacardi Cortez also earned a trio of awards for Traditional Male Artist of the Year, Traditional Album of the Year (Imprint), and Praise and Worship Song of the Year (“You’ve Been Good to Me”). Maverick City Music x Kirk Franklin and Tye Tribbett celebrated wins in two categories each. The complete list of winners is available at www.stellarawards.com.

In addition, four gospel greats were honored for their contributions to gospel music:

CeCe Winans – Aretha Franklin Icon Award
Rev. Dr. Milton Biggham – James Cleveland Lifetime Achievement Award
Ambassador Dr. Bobby Jones – Thomas A. Dorsey Most Notable Achievement Award
Dottie Peoples – Ambassador Dr. Bobby Jones Legends Award

This year’s awards show will premiere on the new Stellar Network on Sunday, July 30 at 6 p.m. ET (available on Charter Spectrum, Verizon Fios, and Xumo Play); BET on Sunday, August 6 at 8 p.m. ET; and Bounce TV on Sunday, September 3 at 1 p.m. ET. The show will also be broadcast nationally from August 7, 2023, to September 10, 2023, through TV syndication. The Stellar Awards Red Carpet Special pre-show will air on Stellar Network on July 30 at 5 p.m. ET. Viewers should check with their local provider for availability.

“Seek” – CLASS

CLASS feat. Elder Tam
MG Music Group (2023)


By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

Recitation of Matthew 7:7 establishes the premise for “Seek” by CLASS. The gospel hip-hop artist drops the lyrics of his latest single over a relaxed tempo, delivering bars with an unhurried cadence. It’s effective for the simple message he imparts into the heart of the listener: an intimate relationship with God is available for the seeking. Tamatha Ward aka Elder Tam, joins him on the track, singing the melodic hook and riffing throughout the verses.

CLASS is the stage name of Effram Winstead, a member of MG Music Group. His music ministry has taken him and the group to several states and the UK. He is a faithful member of Young’s Chapel Baptist Church in Roxboro, NC, and shares life with his wife and their five children.