Reuben (Bill) Cooper, original member of the Cooper Four, makes transition

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

Reuben (Bill) Cooper, original member of the Cooper Four, passed yesterday (January 12), after an extended period of declining health.  He was 87 years old.

The Cooper Four’s brand of folksy traditional gospel, minimal musical accompaniment (often only guitar), and notably deep voices made the sibling foursome–Bill along with Walter, Maria (d. 1996), and Bill’s twin sister Ruth–a regional favorite at the peak of their popularity. 

The group began singing in their rural Hillsborough, NC home in 1935.  In 1954, they began singing live weekly on Durham’s first all-Black radio station, WSRC.  As of 2011, the group could still be heard live each week on WRJD radio in Durham.

The Cooper Four’s early 1960s vinyl single, featuring “This May Be My Last Time” and “Stay in the Field Until the War is Ended” still receives occasional airplay.

GMF extends condolences to Bill’s wife Ella, daughter Rubena, grandchildren, siblings, and host of family members and friends.  He will be remembered fondly.

Upcoming ‘Quartet Divas’ project to underscore female talent in quartet music

Milon Fenner, President and CEO of MILestONe Music, professes that he’s “placing a marker at every mile, leaving a trail in music.”  Among the next of his markers is a new project that features rising women talents in quartet music entitled Quartet Divas.

The forthcoming CD is part of the singer/songwriter/producer’s vision to increase the visibility of singin’ sisters who are helping to keep quartet music alive and thumpin’.

“Quartet female artists are often overlooked by the gospel music industry,” comments Fenner regarding the inspiration for Quartet Divas.  “This project seeks to highlight the talents and gifts of female artists who promote the same message as the well-recognized male artists.  Women, just as men, have powerful
ministries and a great deal of anointing that has been stunted because
of the industry’s male domination.” 

Tallie Rogers, RuBena Cooper-Woods, Tuekellia Jones, Karen George, Ruby Glenn, Brenda Northern, Flossie Johnson, Formecia Wallace, Melvette Armond, Shaleah Lewis, Sherice Wilkes, and Annie Whishop are among those set to appear on the project, which is scheduled for release in early 2013.

“Christmas Everyday” – New Creation

“Christmas Everyday”
New Creation featuring Pastor George Crews, III
From the CD, Help Is On The Way (2011)
[email protected]

New Creation takes an oldie on a spin with Pastor George Crews, III guesting on lead.  The Hillsborough, NC based group escorts its listeners back in time with a cover of the Temptations’ “Christmas Everyday,” featured on New Creation’s non-Christmas gospel CD, Help Is On The Way.
Oldtimers will recall the Temps’ Melvin Franklin lending his sultry bass to the song’s lead (or even Smokey Robinson’s version before that, with the Miracles).  Crews, by contrast, is a tenor who delivers this swinging tune with near-equal oomph.  The main distinction here, of course, is that Pastor Crews and New Creation direct their affirmation to Jesus and the fact that He makes it Christmas every day. 

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Help Is On The Way – New Creation (CD Review)

Help Is On The Way – New Creation

New Creation
Help Is On The Way
Woods Productions (2011)
[email protected]

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

While their debut 12-track project is entitled Help Is On The Way, RuBena Cooper-Woods, Tonya Woods, Karen Foust, and Devon Torain churn out their numbers knowing intuitively that their Help has arrived!

For New Creation, music is as much legacy as it is ministry.  As the pedigree goes, group members are the products of three popular NC based singing aggregations: the Cooper Four, the Faithful Travelers, and the Torain Family.

Accordingly, Help Is On The Way is loaded with tasty, homegrown gospel tunes, starting in high gear with “Praise Him,” written by vocalist/keyboardist Tonya Woods.  RuBena Cooper-Woods handles the lead on the brisk call to celebration.  New Creation then forges ahead with a mix of slow as well as velocious original songs and hymn arrangements.

Throughout the album, Cooper-Woods and Woods exchange lead chores as well as the writer’s hat on most of the pieces.  Easily among the project’s highlights are its tangy, pew-burning title track blazed by Cooper-Woods, followed by the slow yet simmering “God Specializes,” which is very appropriately suited to Woods’ velvety vocal texture.  “I Made It” is another one with plenty of spice, and Cooper-Woods seizes every available second of this hammering groove to celebrate all that she has overcome and to acknowledge that “it was You, Lord, that brought me through!”  Along with arrangement help from her brothers Thurman, Eric, and Derrick (New Creation’s producer, lead and bass guitarists, respectively), Woods shines again on a pop-soul flavored version of “Heir of the Kingdom,” from which she crafts an anthem for all who are in line to inherit.  Her stylings hint to India.Arie and the background vocals are light, lively, and crisp–a refreshing departure from the quartet vibe that powers the rest of the project.

Pastor George Crews, III also makes a pair of appearances on album–first, offering a passionate prayer and exhortation in “Everything You Need” (penned by Thurman Woods, Sr.) and later, crooning a remake of the Temptations’ “Christmas Everyday” to round out the project, declaring that Jesus “make[s] it Christmas, even in the fall.”

With Thurman “Peanut” Woods at the helm of production on this all-around delicious debut, the only suggestion I’d make is that a couple of the songs’ reprises be reserved for live performances.  Re-cranking a number tends to be most effective when the audience perceives it to be spontaneous rather than expected.

A CD launch like this makes one thing certain though: Help is just one of the many wonderful things on the way for New Creation.

“Help is on the Way” – “God Specializes” – “Heir of the Kingdom”

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SMOKIN’ (4 of 5 Stars)