Family and Friends, Live
For her fourth album, Crawford records in her best element (live), and connects with several other vocalists, from Melvin Williams to labelmate Shirley Murdock to a reuniting with Dr. Bobby Jones, as well as with several members of her immediate family, making this a true Family and Friends project.
Producers Derrick Lee and Sanchez Harley harness all of their force and experience and hitch it to the project, which was recorded earlier in 2003 at the Jackson Memorial Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia.
It’s traditional from the get go, as the Chris Byrd composition “Higher In The Lord” sets the scene. Upbeat is an understatement here, as modulations, bouncy brass and boisterous organ, Terry Baker’s fast-paced guitar work and the vocal exhuberance that Crawford is noted for drive the song.
Percussive guitar and brass again mark up the followup cut, “Hold On”, featuring Shirley Murdock, who joins with Crawford on the funk-ridden encourager written by Steve Crawford and Da'Dra Crawford-Greathouse of Anointed along with Virgil Stafford.
Melvin Williams enters on “I’m Willing To Wait”, working his warm voice into the slow-tempo’d balladry, trading ad lib testimony and committment with Crawford over unison choir vocals from Yelder and DFC. Like the other collaborations on Family and Friends, this one works well.
“How I Got Over” is a reunion of sorts, as Dr. Bobby Jones exults in the dueting with Crawford on the Clara Ward classic, with Yelder and DFC adding the right touch of mass power.
And with all the guests on the album, it is Crawford who shines throughout, knowing when to step back and when to move forward. Her vocals are as powerful and emotion-laden as ever. It ’s not her (very) abundant vocal skills that heat up the project, but the rather the generous pouring out of her heart and soul through that does that.
On the family side of the album ledger, there’s a song with Crawford’s father, Bishop Walter Camp :”There’s An Answer” from Percy Gray. Close duet harmony, organ trills, and that slow traditional groove make it a winner, as father and daughter testify that Jesus is the answer for all of our problems, moving to the build with choir resounding “call Him, call Him”.
“Miracles” has the entire Camp Family on the church cut, backing up their own Beverly Crawford (nee Camp) in the fast-paced, rhythmic-driven toe tapper, telling that God works miracles with even our mustard seed faith. Some great piano work hightlights the cut.
Moving to the next generation, on “I’ll Never Give Up”, Crawford proudly introduces her daughter, Latrina Crawford who joins her in the rousing, semi-contemporary and brassy song that contains a brief rap interlude.
The project ends on a high point with a worshipful medley from Rodney Posey titled “Inhabit My Praise / Oh The Presence”. Featuring Crawford alone with choir, it’s a splendid 8-minute-plus finish to the project, with all the moans, shouts, audience participation, soaring vocals and all out Gospel you might expect from one of the genres’ most beloved voices.
— reviewed by Stan North —
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