Rev. Clay Evans and AARC Mass Choir
As Rev. Dr. Clay Evans retires after celebrating his 50-year anniversary in ministry, his African-American Religious Connection Mass Choir continues to pump out the praise. The latest is a project that is appropriately titled Constantly.Producers: Pharis Evans Jr., Michael Shaw
album release date: April 3, 2001
If it’s Clay Evans, then you know it’s gotta be churchy. And with the diversity of producer and nephew Pharis Evans Jr. embracing the project, it’s also got that high-quality, new millenial, traditional feel.
Touching his very familiar and signature vocals to several cuts, Rev. Dr. Evans brightens songs like “Thank You Lord”, joining in with noted Chicago keys man, Minister Bryant Jones Sr. who also takes the mic on this, his own composition. The bouncy choir chorus is stamped with plenty of spicey guitar and bass.
On the two-part "Hold On", Rev. Evans comes to tell us that ‘everything will be all right’ if we just hold on to God’s unchanging hand. It’s one of those songs that while an original (Wayne Evans songwrites), has all the elements of a classically slow church chorus, with its punctuated song line and slow hand claps that fill it in.
Other songs that pique the ear include the rising praise ballad marathon, "Hallelujah", with Patricia Clifton taking solo lead, and "Step By Step" which is marked by Rev. Isaac Whitman’s vocals and some great soul-shuddering bass work from Anthony Harmon.
Rev. Dr. Clay Evans
Born in 1925 in Brownsville, Tennesse, Rev. Dr. Clay Evans founded the Fellowship Baptist Church in Chicago in 1950. Since then, in between ministerial duties, he has been a Gospel mainstay, putting out multiple projects both solo and more recently with his choir (African American Religious Connection Mass), on labels such as Savoy, Jewel and now Chicago-based Meek. December 2000 saw Rev. Dr. Evans retire with honors.
Bishop William Ellis and Elder James Lennox each make fine work of the classics, "The Lord Will Make A Way" and "I Won’t Complain", respectively.
There’s just no denying that star cut of the project is the title track, "Constantly", penned by Pharis Evans Jr. and Maulty Jewel IV. Intro’d by a narrative from Evans Jr. that references our constant and perpetual thanks and gratitude to God for his blessings, the song is then riveted to a relentlessly sticky melody that Minister Wendell Lowe takes hold of and saturates with his intensely soulful tenor and heart-trembling passion.
Meek Records wisely positions the song front and center on the project, including a radio edit that merits much attention.
Every once in a while a churchy traditional project comes along to remind us that this style remains a force in Gospel. Constantly is one such album, so kick these wonderfully-fashioned stompy grooves into gear and reassure yourself of that certainty.
reviewed by Stan North —
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