"The King" – Drew Chambers ft. Armar'rae Hill & True Foundation

“The King”
Drew Chambers ft. Armar’rae Hill & True Foundation (2014)
Available at iTunes

Drew Chambers "The King" art work

Nearly as fast as BET Sunday Best 7 axed him (July 20) after a pristine performance of Smokie Norful’s “I Need You Now,” Drew Chambers released a single for his already huge following (peep his Facebook page), and his newly acquired fans.

“The King,” which features Armar’rae Hill and True Foundation, is equally friendly to radio and worship team playlists.  Drew’s eclectic blend of worship and soul intensifies the reverent tune and is an impeccable complement to the vocals of Hill and his team of talented singers.

Drew is a native of Hickory, NC (of which I’m familiar, because I’m also a North Carolinian), and is definitely one to watch.  You can do just that at drewchambersonline.com.

"What A Holiday" – Maurice Griffin

“What A Holiday”
Maurice Griffin
From CD, My Holiday (2013)
MGM Chicago Music Group

There’s nothing like a feel-good song to get you in the spirit of Christmas, and Maurice Griffin taps into the Memphis soul sound (think Al Green) to do just that.

Griffin’s melismas in “What A Holiday” meet up with a slapping bass and brilliant horns to bring you the same infectious energy that he transmitted to BET Sunday Best 2 viewers when he was a finalist.

The full-length Christmas project, My Holiday, is available at iTunes.

"He's Very Much Alive" – Sue Roseberry

“He’s Very Much Alive”
Sue Roseberry (2013)

Sue Roseberry, aka “Mama Sue,” has been making waves on the traditional choir scene for a long time, and ever since her stay on BET’s Sunday Best 4, fans have eagerly awaited the release of new music from the endearing vocalist.  Well, the wait is over and Roseberry is here with a brand new single, “He’s Very
Much Alive,” from her forthcoming CD, Magnificent God.

With a shuffle feel, octave-toggling bass, swelling horns, and a cast of soulful background singers, Roseberry communicates the truth of the matter in inimitable style that her audience readily identifies as praise-provoking: “He’s not on the cross, He’s not in the tomb–He’s alive! Jesus is alive!”

Besides being the vocal powerhouse you came to know and love from the Sunday Best competition, Roseberry is a writer with more than 300 compositions to her credit.  Additionally, she is a favorite at Gospel Music Workshop of America gatherings and an encourager to her industry compatriots.

Homegoing Arrangements for Sunday Best Finalist Dontavies Boatwright

November 13, 2012- JACKSONVILLE, FL – Arrangements have been finalized for Dontavies Boatwright, PEInc Gospel recording artist, who passed away on Thursday, November 8, 2012, in Jacksonville, Florida.
Friday, November 16th
PUBLIC VIEWING – 5:00 PM – 8:00 PM
J.E. Fralin & Sons Funeral Service

5065 Soutel Drive
Jacksonville, FL 32208

Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church
A.B. Coleman Auditorium

1118 W. Beaver Street
Jacksonville, FL 32204

Saturday, November 17th
Bethel Baptist Institutional Church

215 Bethel Baptist Street
Jacksonville, FL 32202

In lieu of flowers, donations to the Dontavies Boatwright Memorial Scholarship Fund can be sent to:
c/o Parriscope Entertainment, Inc.

5103 San Juan Avenue
Jacksonville, FL 32210

The Parriscope studios will be open Tuesday through Friday, 2-6 PM, for anyone who wishes to drop off monetary or food gifts.

"Imagine Me" – Alexis Spight

“Imagine Me”
Alexis Spight
From the upcoming CD, Set Me Free (available March 12, 2013)
Music World Entertainment

From day one of her appearance on BET’s Sunday Best 5, it was apparent to thousands of viewers that Alexis Spight had what it took to go to the finals of the gospel singing contest.  Among her memorable performances was a cover of Kirk Franklin’s “Imagine Me.”  If you were watching that particular Sunday night, you recall that Franklin himself was quite impressed with the 19 year-old red-haired sensation’s arrangement.  Her remake is now heating up radio as the debut single from her forthcoming first album, Set Me Free. 
Spight’s version of “Imagine Me” might strike you simply as nice–that blah nondescript adjective–until you hear her drop a rhyme that reminds you why she stood toe to toe with season winner Joshua Rogers right down to the end.  The Lauryn Hill-esque rap verse along with her smooth-to-the-taste flow, reminiscent of Kim Burrell, is the icing on the cake that elevates her cover of “Imagine Me” from nice to sweet.

Sunday Best 2 finalist Dontavies Boatwright dies

GMF has just confirmed the passing of BET’s Sunday Best 2 finalist Dontavies Boatwright.  BET’s Torrence Glenn reports the cause of death as an apparent heart attack.  He was 33 years old.

Boatwright began singing publicly at the age of 12 and gained international recognition after placing in the top five during the second season of BET’s Sunday Best.  His approach to gospel music was a hit with fans because of his resounding baritone which was enhanced by his opera background.  Though he did not win the gospel contest, he eventually earned the title of “The Pavarotti of Gospel Music.”  Boatwright recently released the CD single “Sunday Best Medley: Glory to Glory” on the Parriscope label.

GMF extends its deepest condolences to Boatwright’s family, friends, and fans.

The Best of Elder Goldwire McLendon – Elder Goldwire McLendon

Elder Goldwire McLendon
The Best of Elder Goldwire McLendon
Music World Gospel (2012)

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

Many viewers of BET’s Sunday Best 3 were captivated by Elder Goldwire McLendon from the moment he mesmerized judges Donnie McClurkin, Kim Burrell, and Tina Campbell at his audition with the Gaither hymn “He Touched Me.”  He went on to delight audiences every week with his velvet vocals and “soft-shoe shuffle” when the Spirit moved him.  Ultimately, the elder and former pastor became the runner-up to Le’Andria Johnson in the finale.  The fans he picked up along the way have anxiously awaited the release of his new project–The Best of Elder Goldwire McLendon–which features seven new recordings of the songs he wowed audiences with throughout the music contest.

At 81 years old, Elder McLendon may be new to the broader gospel community, but he is a legend in Philadelphia, where he was a member of Savoy recording group The Savettes, and where he was honored at Philadelphia’s First Annual Living Legend Music Awards (alongside Chubby Checker, Dee Dee Sharp, and Billy Paul).

Certainly, Elder McLendon has the skill and anointing to invoke the Holy Spirit’s presence.  It was a younger Goldwire McLendon who sang at the 1970 funeral of Ruth Davis, lead singer of the Golden Era gospel group, The Davis Sisters.  According to Anthony Heilbut’s book, The Gospel Sound, when he sang “Just to Behold His Face,” gospel icon Clara Ward “fell out, hollering long, loud, eminently musical shrieks.”

If there’s a number on The Best of Elder Goldwire McLendon that could create a similar effect, I imagine it would be “The Battle Is the Lord’s,” especially if it were to be experienced live.  “Jesus Be A Fence Around Me” may not make you fall out, but hand-clapping, toe-tapping, and head-bobbing are probable.  It’s in the vamp especially, that Elder McLendon rhythmically riffs over a funky organ driven musical backdrop, inserting phrases like “can’t no devil penetrate that fence” and “don’t leave no gap in between Lord.”

Not surprisingly, McLendon is very much at home with hymns, as is obvious by his equal parts simple and stirring rendition of “How Great Thou Art,” over lone piano accompaniment, and by his polished tenor on the traditional “I Know It Was the Blood.”  On the latter, he swings occasionally into a deliciously sweet falsetto before taking you to church in the vamp.  He does similarly on his cover of Edwin Hawkins’ “O Happy Day.”  Also for your listening and swaying pleasure are his covers of Alvin Darling’s “He’s All Over Me” and “I’ll Take You There,” popularized by the Staples Singers.  

With clean production by Stanley Brown and the tunes that kept the elder at the top week after week, my only disappointment is that this isn’t a live project with a companion DVD.

“How Great Thou Art” – “I Know It Was the Blood” – “O Happy Day”

Fever Meter
SMOKIN’ (4 of 5 Stars)

Le’Andria Johnson performs in Raleigh – Jan. 21

Click flyer to enlarge

Tickets can be purchased at http://newliteentertainment.ticketleap.com/the-women-of-gospel-music.

Sizzlin’ This Week (9/12/11) – “Jesus”

Le’Andria Johnson
From the CD, The Awakening of Le’Andria Johnson (2011)

If there is any doubt about why Le’Andria Johnson was a hit on season three of Sunday Best, it will vanish once you hear the slow, intensely soulful and passionate “Jesus” from her new project, The Awakening of Le’Andria Johnson.

Having penned the song–by singing it into her phone in an airport, it’s obvious that Johnson knows about calling Jesus from a dark, gut-wrenching place. Since winning last season’s show, she was faced with the passing of her brother; she also confronted a bout with alcohol that began with occasional wine drinking. There’s no mistaking that this song’s lyrics (“…I needed to break out and get freedom/One bad decision after the next, just getting by…”) are a part of her testimony.

Johnson calls Jesus like she’s desperate for rescue, and throughout she unashamedly points listeners to the One who lifts from sin and shame: “Jesus–call Him like you want Him, call Him like you need Him!”

Sizzlin' This Week (8/8/11) – "Jesus Is Love"

My pick this week differs from the usual in that it has not yet been recorded.  Well, actually, Lionel Richie’s “Jesus Is Love” has been recorded, first by his own funk/soul group The Commodores in 1980, and later by several other artists both secular and gospel, including Melvin Williams and Smokie Norful & Heather Headlley.  Richie himself also performed it at the memorial service of his friend Michael Jackson.

My pick, however, is the one performed by none other than “Mama” Sue Roseberry last night on BET’s Sunday Best.  Honestly, the song has never been one of my favorites.  I know.  I’m probably the only one who thinks “Jesus Is Love” is an okay tune, but nothing extra.

Until last night.

Roseberry’s styling and ad libs were nothing short of brilliant, as she embarked upon making it more “wedding-y” (her word) to keep with the show’s “I Do” theme week.  It was enough to stir Donnie McClurkin–and not exactly in the Holy Ghost, either.  In fact, I wrote to BET.  Well, it was really a status update on my Facebook wall:

Dear BET Sunday Best: Mama Sue needs to record that NOW!!!  I don’t even like that song, but her version should become the definitive!

I’m telling you, Fever readers, Mama Sue’s cover of “Jesus Is Love” is a hit waiting to happen.