Burned of all the things I held onto
Standing in the rubble of what I thought secure,
Till the only thing I have left is the solid rock of You”
from "Standing in the Ashes"
Jamaica’s Carlene Davis needs no introduction for those in the know about the little island’s ‘big music’. She’s amassed trophy hardware from around the globe, with over fifteen albums crowded with her rootsy, sunny and accessible vocals. Her name is mentioned among the most credible of Jamaican artists.
While most her projects have been mainstream in topic, Davis has focused exclusively on Gospel since 1995, coinciding with her wholehearted acceptance of Jesus Christ. Her latest album, Redeemed, is without doubt her best to date.
Versatile in her stylings, Davis ranges the project from standouts such as “Standing In The Ashes” with its beautiful lyricism and catchy reggae-splashed rhythms, to calypso dreams such as the title track and those ever-popular covers such as Darlene Zchech’s “Lord I Give You My Heart” and other worship choruses.
Multiple stellar musicians are featured on this Glory Music release, with banjo, guitar, vioilin, exotic percussion and saxophone enhancing the standard synth, bass, keys and drums, making this a music lovers' delight, on top of everything else.
Fellow laborers in the sanctified reggae community join Davis on some cuts. Papa San brings his edgy dancehall-hop to “It Must Be Love” and label-mate Junior Tucker slips his high timbre, easy-smooth sound into duet on the always popular, “Lord I Lift Your Name”.
But perhaps one of the most striking duets on Redeemed is the mother/daugher collabo on “Nothing But The Blood”. Jumping with syncopation and rife with conga, the familiar chorus gets a zesty workout from Davis and her daughter, Naomi Cowan. Still in her early teens, Cowan delivers one of the most flavaful singsong raps heard in a while, bursting with energy, spirit and covered in anointing. Click here for some of her lines.
You’ll also find yourself fascinated by “Jesus Is Coming”, a gloriously soulful reggae-rhythm track that sends shivers with it’s pan and synth accompaniment and eventful backing vocals that echo the word, 'revelation' over and over. Davis creates a vibe of both anticipation and celebration with her low register, sometimes growly delivery, telling us that "no one knows when the Master comes, don’t be caught sleeping in the burning sun".
The lead single “This Island Needs Jesus” has been sweeping around the islands for some time now, with extra vocals from the upcoming girl-group, 4-Given. It’s included here with an extra funky ‘Brawta mix' on this album. On “Hallelujah Medley”, Davis offers up a generous helping of church choruses, all doused with her creative vocal patterning and those inimitable chunky beats.
Topping everything off, and making things fresher than fresh, are Marlon James’ earth tone illustrations of Carlene Davis in action. Featured throughout the liner notes, it makes the credit digging and album listening all that more enjoyable.
— reviewed by Stan North —
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