Artists You Should Know

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As followers of this site already know, the independent artist movement is an ever-expanding market. If you find an independent artist you like, by the time you finish listening to their track, you’ll find that there are four more artists with the same or similar flavor that you’ve never heard of. It is impossible for me to highlight every new independent artist. As a matter of fact, the list of artists I have in my queue to review is two pages long. I’m only one man!

Having said that, it is my endeavor to spread the word about good music coming from good people. The most efficient way to do that is to include them in a rapid-fire report in which I try to spread the word about more than one artist at a time. Each of these artists’ work is important. Please support them and help spread the news about them. Here we go!


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Tierra Brockman  *  Chester Burke Jr. & Company  *  Mike Willis & The Called  *  Chantel Songbird  *  Livre‘  *    Jazmine Lynn Jones  *  Sidney Buckner & Youth In Unity  *  Rickey Harvey Jr.  *  Macio Harris & Voices Of Praise  *  Christina  *  Anthony Jawan  *  Isaiah Templeton


TIERRA BROCKMAN

Tierra Brockman 3I have often said that up-and-coming singers have few artists from which they can glean knowledge about control and placement. This is why I was glad to hear “I’ll Wait”, the debut single from Tierra Brockman. Her notes gracefully complement each line. The vocal support she has do a fantastic job at adding weight to the song without making it cumbersome. Her light and purposeful vocals put flourishes in all the right places.

Let me stop here and state the obvious: Tierra is young and her voice reveals that. However, that is the good thing. She will grow and mature with her listeners. As they listen to her, they will grow as well, learning about clean phrasing. While I like the single as a learning tool, I don’t think it displays the full extent of Tierra’s talent. A live performance should tell you all you need to know about her musical abilities. Making her and Artist You Should Know.

While the song begins in customary fashion, it ends on a contemplating note. Not with a fabulous musical outro or powerful ad-lib as the next line fades out, but it actually stirs one to think about their personal willingness to take in the message that has just been delivered. I look forward to future endeavors by Ms. Brockman. Until then, “I’ll Wait”.

I’ll Wait” – Tierra Brockman


CHESTER BURKE JR. & COMPANY

Chester Burke 1With so much music being released, it is easy to let some things go unnoticed. I was listening to my own playlist and heard “Jesus, I Bless Your Name” and assumed it was probably something I added from J.J. Hairston & Youthful Praise, Joshua’s Troop or James Hall & W.A.P. As it continued to play, there was some  engaging quality about it. I stopped working and realized that I added Chester Burke Jr. & Company to my playlist to review on a future date. Well, I guess that date came up sooner than I had expected.

 This song is definitely a concert opener and full of vibrancy and energy that sort of has you unconsciously bouncing, tapping your foot or nodding your head. The rest of the songs on the project exhibit that same exuberance.  I am not sure if Burke and his group are followers or former members of the aforementioned Hairston or Hall groups, but they certainly have taken a page or two from their playbooks. Great musical arrangement and a front man who has more than a modicum of singing ability make for a song that feels familiar but not common. I wish I could happen upon songs like this more often.  Of special consideration are the songs: “Great God” and “Yes God Is Real“. I encourage every leader who has a youth choir under their direction to download a copy of this single. Definitely an Artist You Should Know and intend to get to know better.

“Jesus, I Bless Your Name” – Chester Burke, Jr. & Company


MIKE WILLIS & THE CALLED

mikewillis32In line with the offerings from music’s leading artists, Mike Willis & The Called blessed us with “I Am” in 2015. An anthem of victory, it is bursting at the seams with strong musical and vocal energy. Truth be told, I could easily close my eyes and envision Tye Tribbett & G.A. singing this song. However, with Tye moving on into other aspects of ministry, I am glad that Mike is embracing the high-energy, no-holds-barred passion his group displayed. This is a viable style of Gospel that young artists to sustain it.

I introduce you to the new single, but encourage you to venture back to Willis’ 2010 offering “Favor Rain” which introduces this group as musical connoisseurs. They move away from traditional Gospel music boundaries and use diverse musical styles (like Big Band and Jazz) to convey the timeless message. Let it be known that they  can hearken back to knee-slapping sounds when called for. Enlisting people like Timiney Figueroa-Caton and Bettina Pennon doesn’t hurt either to make this a “must listen”.

If you like music in its entirety and have a passion for Christ, Mike Willis & The Called is an Artist You Should Know.

“Move” – Mike Willis & The Called


CHANTEL SONGBIRD

Chantel picChantel Songbird is a powerful singer who has a heart for Praise and Worship. She is a competent and powerful exhorter and she is destined to be much more of a success as long as she continues on the upward path she is taking. However, I warn you not to be fooled. While she is definitely a worshipper, the things that set her apart from so many others are her amazing versatility and powerful adaptability. I’ve personally seen her take an audience from the soulful remembrances of James Cleveland’s “I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired” to fits of pique climaxing in Tasha Cobbs’ “For Your Glory”. There is no audience left out when she takes the platform.

Chantel’s debut offering “Fire” exemplifies her powerful singing and heart for God. This song was given to her one evening and she, without any musical arrangement, shared what God gave her with her group, Extreme Worship,  the next day in rehearsal. In that rehearsal, the presence of God fell – proving that this song was Spirit- birthed.

Chantel has taken some time off to become Mrs. Varnado (Congrats on the upcoming wedding!) and I would suggest that with her new marriage that she re-release her single to a brand new audience. It is definitely worth hearing and aside from that, it is truly her song. She travels across the country, spreading the “Fire”. She is a blessing to the Body of Christ and an Artist You Should Know.

“Fire” – Chantel Songbird


LIVRE’

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The word livre was used as the name of French currency from 781-1794 A.D.  and is derived from the Latin word for a Roman unit of weight. The currency system served as the model for many of Europe’s currencies.

Their new project: “Jericho – The Tribe of Joshua” is a powerfully expressive project that shows the diversity of the Gospel message. This is exactly what Livre’ (pronounced LUH-VRAY) has set out to do: reach the masses. Their music is bold, skillfully crafted and well-written. From the first song, their reverent Christian upbringing is blended with a modern pop-culture vibe that puts the Gospel message in a new light. My personal faves are “Everything’s Coming Up Jesus”, “Perception” and “Something To Live For. The groups styling and presentation, like the French currency, will be viable for quite some time and serve as a credible model for other groups to come.

Born of the same family as the phenomenal Kevin Gray, these cousins keep the family gift alive with an entire project that proclaims the love of Christ for a new generation. Being one who appreciates traditional music and respects where we’ve come from, Livre’ gives me a new respect for where music is going. The conviction, reverence and passion for God’s message is still there – albeit in a new package. Focus on the package and you miss the essence of their ministry. Focus too much on the depth and you miss the personality and flair they are graced with. Livre is fresh, new, gifted and an Artist You Should Know

“Everything’s Comin’ Up Jesus ” – Livre’


JAZMINE LYNN JONES

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 Three Rhythm of Gospel award nominations isn’t enough to slow down this dynamo. She continues to be a sought after artist. She is just as adroit in a choir setting (a member of Dexter Walker & Zion Movement) as she is taking the stage in her own set.

Jazmine Lynn Jones hails from a family that has birthed musicians and ministers that are first-rate. It seems that every child in the Jones Family was born with the musical gene and Jazmine is no exception. Coming off the heels of her first single “Higher”, which put her on national radar, Jones released a second single, which further elevates her credibility as a silvery-voiced songbird.

Show Me The Way” puts Jazmine out front, once again, doing what she does best. Her vocals are excellent and she has surrounded herself with singers and musicians that are second to none. Join Jazmine’s sweet and flowing riffs with Charles Middleton’s fearless vocal precision and you have yet another reason to love this new song. It does, however, whet our appetites for the full project that she has yet to release, which showcases the production talents of Ivory Vaughn and Jonathan Sherrell –  a producing duo that have a love for the music they create. An Artist You Should Know,  Jazmine’s musical offerings put her on par with established soloists many years her senior. The best of family traits shine through but Jazmine stands her own ground as an incredible singer. Please don’t let this song – or any of her works – slip past you.

“Show Me The Way” – Jazmine Lynn Jones


SIDNEY BUCKNER & YOUTH IN UNITY

DISCLAIMER: I am probably going to speak a lot more about the mission of this group as opposed to  the music. However, the goal of this feature was always to connect credible artists with supportive audiences. Revealing who they are outside the music is one of the best ways to do that.

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In times like these we live in, any group or organization that embraces our youth is one that should garner our full support. In 2010 A young man named Sidney Buckner was given a simple mission: Gather young people together and invest in their lives. Youth In Unity is more than another singing group. Buckner has decided to use music as the bonding agent while becoming part of the daily walk of the youth in his care. Encouraging them and helping them gather the resources needed to achieve their scholastic and life goals, preparing them for higher aspirations.

I am proud to say that he has been engaged in saving black lives for six years now – long before popular culture said that they mattered. While their music isn’t topping the charts, their musical offerings have substance and speak from the perspective of their age group. The group has an entire project under their belt called, strangely enough, “The Youth In Unity Project”, which was their first recording but would not be their last. It was a platform for the talents of songwriters, singers and musicians from all over Buckner’s native Chicago. They return with “Somebody Prayed For Me”, the newest single is a laid back and stylistic approach to a classic message. The group is already gearing up to release another single and working in the background on a full project. I guess that’s what makes YIU such an endearing group. Sidney and his lovely wife, Ella do amazing work with the young people under their care. Quietly, they’ve been keeping their nose to the grindstone, not making a fuss about it , but working diligently.

If you ever wanted to support a good cause, this is it. For them, the music isn’t paramount, but the success of these young people is their ultimate goal. He is an encourager to everyone while having a mission that’s all his own. They are a group of young people determined to be a success in the Kingdom and in life. Sidney Buckner & Youth In Unity is an Artist You Should Know.

“My Soul Cries Out” – Sidney Buckner & Youth In Unity


RICKEY HARVEY JR.

the-best-i-can-beHe has a powerful voice that is warm and comforting. With the tremoring rasp of a preacher and the carefulness of a crooner, he takes a simple message and makes it easily palatable.

From the title cut (my personal favorite), to the end of the EP, Rickey Harvey Jr. dispels all the myths of the singing preacher and is a great example of finding your niche and flourishing therein. The moment you hear his voice, you just know that he can “squall”, if you will, but you also realize that he is certainly serious about the quality of his singing and musical presentation as well.

In terms of the title song, it begins with a catchy arrangement that suddenly turns into a Groove but something even more intriguing happens. Harvey then does a series of riffs that reveal his quartet / traditional background. Older men at my church will love his down home sound. Younger people in the same church can appreciate his youthful vibe. The introduction of his present work, “The Best I Can Be” make him a definite Artist You Should Know before he approaches his zenith. He has found what works for him and it works for me as well. I enjoy listening to Harvey’s music and look forward to connecting with him in the future.

“Best I Can Be” – Rickey Harvey, Jr.


 MACIO HARRIS & VOICES OF PRAISE

macioharrisThey have been a mainstay on the Gospel scene in the Midwest for years. Their sound hearkens back to simpler times when choirs weren’t so interested in being accompanied by the most elite band, showcasing the newest or most gifted to make them stand out. I remember growing up in a time when choirs were distinguished by one thing….their ability to sing! Macio Harris & Voices of Praise remembers that time as well and pays homage to it with a new single “Has The Lord Been Good“. A song that can be appreciated by young and old alike, it takes us back to when the best choirs were typified by stage performance and sound.
Macio Harris has  written songs for leading artists, including Ricky Dillard & New G and worked faithfully in the background since his youth. All the while, taking the best of  what he learned from so many greats in the industry, teaming it with his God-given vision and set forth. What the group may not have in the way of extreme orchestration and post-production garnish, they make up for in pure singing. Thankfully, there are groups like this one and Daniel X. Smith & New St. Matthew Inspirational Choir that are in the business of allowing nothing stand in the way of making the choir’s range and ability the main focus. In any live setting, they seem very reserved at first, but them explode and do incredible things vocally. An antiquated idea today, but one that is preserved under Harris’ leadership. While speaking of leadership, Macio does so with confidence, experience and inspiration. To get the choir to perform in the extraordinary way that they do, he has to. Mix a competent writer and electrifying director with a choir with amazing skill and a splash of boldness and they make for an Artist You Should Know.
“Has The Lord Been Good?” – Macio Harris & Voices Of Praise

CHRISTINA

My connection to the powerhouse producer, Dexter St. Jock, who recorded and mixed the song aside, I am a firm supporter of Christina. If you won’t take my word for it, Listen to the word of Deitrick Haddon, who whole-heartedly endorsed her in a tweet to his 200K+ followers:
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 I concur with the L.A. preacher on this one and commend him on his astute choice. Christina has hit the mark with a vibrant and superlative gift to the industry.  I would seem biased if I spoke too much about the superior production, so I will focus on the artist, herself. She is a singer’s singer. I esteem her much the same way I do Britney Wright or Chrystal Rucker — fantastic vocalists who are beyond words. Her vocal choices are tasteful and uses her range like an archer uses an arrow. Singers on every level can appreciate her evident ability.  Listeners can rest in the fact that they are vibing to an affirming message that’s in line with God’s requirement for their lives.  Objectively speaking, I certainly hope that there is a follow-up single  to “Yes” in the works, if not an entire project or EP. Christina is an Artist You Should Know and a talent we need to hear more from…soon!
 
Yes” – Christina

ANTHONY JAWAN

God Made Me Cover Art
 My 15-year old niece was sold when she looked at an email he sent to me that had his cover art as an attachment. She “ooo-ed” and “ahhh-ed” for about three minutes before I put the hammer down. “He’s a Gospel artist!” To which, she responded with: “So! God made him cute!”. The intelligent young lady made a play on the title of his debut single. In that encounter, I realized that there will always be someone who will be at odds with what God has given you and people  who will affirm you. A few moments with a teenager revealed to me the premise of Anthony Jawan‘s message.
Almost as interesting as the story behind my niece’s new favorite artist is the fact that I met him when he was probably not much older than she is. His quiet nature belied his incredible talent, but it wouldn’t be long before he was evolving as a writer, director and soloist. Coming up through the ranks of New Direction and Joshua’s Troop, he gained the respect and trust of the Grayboys (master producer and maestro Percy Gray Jr. & Jeral Gray Sr., respectively ) and used his gifts to make those groups flourish both in sound and in execution. I stop here to add tribute to Anthony Jawan (his surname, I don’t have permission to print his last name…lol) and Brandon Love, two of the unsung heroes that have helped to change the landscape of contemporary Gospel music and who took the groups they were a part of to another level with concise songwriting, masterful vocal arrangement and impeccable leadership. Jawan in one who has helped shape a generation of music for the burgeoning youth movement.
God Made Me” is Jawan’s solo effort. It loses none of the precision that he has shared with so many. Coming from a musical past that includes New Direction, many would expect a tune with a heavy groove. I am so glad that he didn’t do what was expected, but instead forged his own path – further bolstering the message of his song. It has a simple but powerful CCM feel and it fits his voice perfectly. It’s a very smooth relaxing song that  slips up on you and encourages you without you even knowing it. Anthony’s voice lends itself to the melody as if they were made to be – perhaps, since he is the composer, it was. The song is wonderfully soothing with a hook that is easily remembered. The production quality shows that he was paying close attention all those years and took the time needed for a top-notch result. I remember that steely-eyed young fellow who came to his first New D rehearsal and I am proud of the resolute man God has made him into.
Leaving everything familiar in his hometown of Chicago, he quit three jobs and moved to Los Angeles, California to go back to school with a serious approach to further his career as an entertainer. His purposeful move landed him in Osaka Japan, where he currently lives and works as an entertainer, traveling the world and fulfilling the purpose he was called for. Anthony Jawan is an international man, a detail-oriented performer and an Artist You Should Know.
 
“God Made Me” – Anthony Jawan

ISAIAH TEMPLETON

Isaiah Templeton 2I was drawn to Isaiah Templeton by word of mouth. I was told countless times about how cordial and personable he was. It was not by fans, but by people who worked with him in ministry at his church. I felt that was the greatest testament as to who he is. After all, no one knows you best than those who work with you consistently. Consistent? Indeed. everyone said the same great things about him. A lesson to artists: Great music is useless if not accompanied by great character.

Mind you, I heard all of these things before I heard his music. I was elated to find that a man with such great personal reviews was as talented as he was easy to entreat. “Be Lifted” almost knocked me out of my seat, reminding me of Jason Champion (an artist with similar vocal tambour and personality). I could tell immediately that his live performance would be like a Thanksgiving meal — tasteful and fulfilling. From “I Can Do Anything” to “Greater“, Templeton takes us on a journey through the life as the believer should live it. His project morphs from a well-crafted studio project to a engaging live service. I think it covers all aspects of the artist’s versatility and everything about the project is top shelf. One can tell that meticulous attention was paid to detail while still allowing space for God to intervene.

“Be Lifted” – Isaiah Templeton

 

Isaiah Templeton serves as Worship Leader at Victory Cathedral Worship Center. While his pastor is the award-winning Smokie Norful, rest assured, Isaiah is not riding coat tails here. He is standing on his own. Advancing under the musical tutelage of Norful, surely, but carving out the path that he alone was destined to tread. ” Roll In The Dirt” is Isaiah’s own voice in the world delivering the message that he was born to give. I could go on, but I will just say that Templeton takes his place among people like Psalmist Raine, Denton Arnell and Ron Poindexter: artists I whole-heatedly support and artists I eagerly declare are Artists You Should Know.


I hope that you get to know and enjoy these artists. If you know of any artists we should know, please reach out to us at cribbsification@gmail.com with some information about them. Godspeed!

 

 
 
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