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!
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
I 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
With 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
In 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 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
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
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.
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.
He 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
I 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 firstname.lastname@example.org with some information about them. Godspeed!