AYSK: Chi-Town Edition
We continue opening Season 3 of AYSK by featuring artists from my hometown of Chicago, IL. While I enjoy connecting with artists across the country, there is something special about featuring people that I have some connection to — either personal or professional. There is a sense of pride in talking about artists that come from Chi-town and feature the rhythmic, soulful and diverse sounds that make our city unique. Here are a few more Artists You Should Know from the birthplace of Gospel music.
PASTOR ROMANDIS MOORE
From the moment you hear “He Will” you are pleasantly surprised by his smoothness and talent. My wife, who claims no critic’s license whatsoever, stopped the song one minute or so in and emphatically said; “I like it!” High praise, indeed. Pastor Romandis Moore has set the standard for male vocalists in Chicago for a number of years. This humble pastor’s new solo project, “On My Mission” is definitely a one hour & two minute-long workshop for young singers seeking the fundamentals of proper placement and presentation. Songs of note include “Can’t Stop“, an achingly simple arrangement that draws you in from start to finish. Makes me wonder why so many drown the messages of their songs in convoluted adaptations, chords and key changes. Complexity is traded here for conviction and clarity. “Rest For The Weary” a song by the legendary Thompson Community Singers and one of my personal all-time favorites is recreated while preserving all of the integrity of the original. I was blown away by its purity. Please make sure to give a listen to this work in its entirety. It is a fresh sound that is pleasing to the ear and the heart.
While simplicity is what makes Moore’s music palatable to the masses, please know that the background vocal arrangements are expertly executed and true singers can pick out the challenging nuances that are hidden in plain sight. Musicians will enjoy the “groovability” (Yes. I made that word up) and how expert producer, Pharis Evans, has established a solid foundation, but left enough meat on the bone for a band to stretch out.
With the vocal texture of a young Marvin Sapp, Pastor Moore takes the listener on a tour of his life’s mission through polished singing and careful attention to detail. In the case of “On My Mission“, less is Moore — Romandis Moore — an incredible gift to the Body.
There is no way you can ignore Chymica Bowman. Her moving vocals and soulful finesse are matched with stirring power and great range. Shirley Murdock, Yolanda Adams, Rochelle Ferrell and Fantasia is a strange combination to be mentioned in a review of a Gospel project, but I can’t help but hear elements of them all as I am enraptured by Bowman’s crisp execution.
I can’t help but regret that there is only a single available because I would love to see the depth and diversity of this long-established voice from the Church of God in Christ. I certainly hope there is more to come.
From the first note of “Restoration“, you are hearkened back to a time when Gospel was a bit more pure and its accompaniment was more complimentary. The music allows the voice to take center stage – as it should for a solo artist – and creates the proper mood for the song. Her phrasing and lyrics remind me of the music that was prevalent many years ago when we made a plea to be ready for heaven as opposed to comfortable on earth. That is not to say that the song is old-sounding — more like classic. The background vocals have an important job in this song and they hold up their end quite well producing fluid harmonies with depth and precision. Chymica Bowman is a confident singer that we can look forward to hearing more from and I encourage you to visit her website for more information at chymicabowman.com.
The last time AYSK featured Floyd Wilkinson, I talked about his hit single, “Say Yes”. I said that he brought life to the philosophy of “less is more”. His musical genius has once again prevailed with his newest single, “All Is Well”. The song begins with a laid-back acoustic opening. A sweet that I wish a few more gospel ballads would adopt. Floyd does nothing but guide us through the song from verse to bridge to end gracefully and without force.
Listening to it for the first time gave me the impression that his goal was not to be the focus himself. Where other artists would have placed themselves on top of the mix -and would have been perfectly within their right to do so – in this song, Wilkinson actually allowed the band and singers to rise to the forefront, making his own voice their accompaniment.
The mastering and mix further bolsters this impression as Wilkinson’s voice seems to be immersed within the song as opposed to sitting on top of it. The stars of the show – in my humble opinion – are the acoustic guitar player and the supporting vocalists. They do a splendid job of conveying the message with beauty and excellence. Floyd is no slouch himself with precise flourishes in just the right places. This song is a great follow-up to last year’s single. It has such a subtle depth to it that a new facet of the song is unveiled with each new listen. If his strategy is to tease us with a new single regularly, I would have to ascribe that it certainly makes for great music. With Floyd Wilkinson‘s new single “All Is Well“, the less you get, the more you want, but there is so much quality in what he produces, less certainly is more.
THE ALLEN TWINS
The list of Chicago’s powerhouse musical families includes such names as: Wills, Lowe, McSwain, Ford, Blakely, Campbell and Lennox. Never to be overlooked among them is the name Allen. Specifically, the late Lorraine Allen, a powerhouse singer and evangelist. Then there’s Ernest Allen, one of Chicago’s premier musicians who is a master producer and musical director. Finally, there are The Allen Twins, two girls who could separately electrify crowds and can cause chaotic uproar when paired together. Marlene Allen-Harrison and Dr. Darlene Allen-Nichols, two girls raised in church, have reached deep into their roots and given us a new single that includes everything they are known for with their new single, “Till My Change Comes”
The song includes the rhythmic patterns that encompass the modern “praise break”, steeped in the traditional sound as well as a melodic chemistry that can only be produced through kinship. They spend their airtime testifying and encouraging listeners to praise God through perseverance. Four minutes well spent. When you are mentioning songs that protect the integrity of Gospel sound with the modern feel, make sure you utter the title; “Til My Change Comes“
MARCUS G. MORTON
Being true to who you are and diligent to your call is an attribute not seen much these days. Those that work tirelessly in ministry are often bestowed with phenomenal talent, yet content to serve their local assemblies of specific area. Here we have one such fellow, Marcus G. Morton.
A man who will give his all in worship – often at the expense of his own voice – just to ensure that the people he leads have a genuine encounter with God. I am certainly glad that he has decided to share his heart on a broader scale. His new single, “Sovereign” speaks not only to God’s place in Creation, but in Morton’s heart. With a mix of smooth mid-range tones and a gentle rasp, his voice aligns itself with the energy of every part of the song. Admittedly, the supporting vocals do the heavy lifting, but it’s true to who Morton is as a leader and exhorter. “Sovereign” is a song Worship Pastors should add to their worship library. It’s not too heavy, but weighty enough for any audience to capture the message.
D’ AMONIQUE LUCKIE
She has immense talent, precise skill, unbridled passion and Spirit-led gracefulness all packaged in a form so unassuming that you might miss it if you’re not careful. Ms. D’ Amonique Luckie is one of the most inspiring people that I have ever come in contact with. Her gifting is equally as inspiring.
“I Believe God” is simplistic in its approach, but uses the Word of God to establish a point she stands unequivocally firm on. Her tender vocals, supported by well- arranged music deliver the message without jarring the listener. I was fortunate enough to hear this song before its release and as eye-opening as it was for me, so should it be for you, It isn’t very often that we find genuine humility and talent in this industry. D’Amonique Luckie not only has both of these in slaeds, she is the real deal.
PASTOR RON WOODS
We began this installment with a pastor, so we can’t go wrong if we end it in the same way. Pastor Ron Woods currently resides in Cedar Rapids, Iowa as the pastor of the Rhema Worship Center. However, there is no denying his deep Chicago roots. Working with great producers like Curtis Lindsey and Percy Gray has resulted in top notch work with the Chicago Mass Choir and using his own production talents on “Sing About Jesus“, the debut single by Ilene Lewis.
However, “Way Maker” is all his own and true to his roots, it falls squarely within the Chicago choir traditional sound. The song has uncomplicated lyrics which make it idea for choirs to stretch out on. The featured singers exuberantly and skillfully carry the song from exciting start to triumphant finish. Musically, it renders ample guitar licks and organ riffs throughout. Woods’ production expertise is prevalent throughout and it sounds as good as songs coming from the big music powerhouses. If you want a good, churchy song that everybody isn’t doing to death, Pastor Ron Woods hits it on the head with this one. Don’t miss this one.
And there you have it. Another installment of Artists You Should Know. A plethora of talent comes out of Chicago. Not only are we proud to highlight it because it’s native, we are proud to feature it because these artists are good and a blessing to the Kingdom.