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The Winner in Me

It would be hard to deny the indelible imprint left on urban music by Cheryl "Coko" Clemons. As the lead singer of SWV (Sisters With Voices), her soprano vocals and urban flair defined a decade, influencing groups and solo acts from Brownstone and Destiny's Child to Keri Hilson and Beyoncé.

Forging an enduring musical legacy, Coko's 2006 debut gospel effort, Grateful, achieved critical acclaim, receiving Stellar, Dove, and Grammy nominations. Now the revered vocalist returns after a three-year recording hiatus with her sophomore project, The Winner In Me (read our exclusive interview with Coko).

CD  Twelve tracks strong, Coko delivers another body of work filled with outstanding music and unbridled passion.

Coko taps a bevy of skilled producers for this effort, and she doesn't have to look far, leaning on skilled musician, producer, and husband "Big" Mike Clemons. Clemons handles production for one-third of the album, lending his trademark ear and drumming expertise to each of those tracks.

Sean Simmonds rolls through, producing and co-writing the passionate "I Surrender". Coko also leans on her New York roots, tapping David Caton, who produces and lends his pen to three of the album's tracks including the urban ballad "Rescue Me".

The album is filled with star power and dream collaborations at that. Coko joins forces with Kelly Price on the female anthem "Oh Mary", a duet that lives up to the imagined vocal expectations. The two expertly trade vocals and forge a formidable power duo on this track penned by Shep Crawford and Onitsha Hernandez, who also serve as vocal arrangers.

Youthful Praise joins Coko on the David Caton-penned radio single "Wait", which cements Coko as a flat-footed, Sunday morning church vocalist. Israel Houghton joins the fray on "The Joy of The Lord", an uptempo groove that merges two outstanding vocal worlds.

You can't miss the gem "Make A Way", where Canton Jones adds hip-hop flair to a pop/rock infectious track that is co-penned by American Idol finalist Felicia Barton.

Amid all of the guest appearances, the substance of Coko's vocal ability and lyrical content remains the highlight of this project. From the amazing title track to the transparency of "This Is Me", Coko shares her faith with an accessible authenticity that is refreshing in today's culture. She unashamedly declares her dependency on Christ while encouraging and empowering the believer to live a success-filled life.

Other notable tracks include the David Caton-penned "Just Like You" (with guest narration from Dr. Kevin Bond) and "May Be The Last Time" —a candidate for the coveted "Summer Jam of the Year" award.

Coko delivers a gem of an album. With musical and vocal versatility, she reminds us that there is a "Winner" in all of us. This album deserves prime real estate in your music catalogue and is easily one of the brightest releases of 2009.

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Production: Various
album release date: July 14, 2009
Light Records

— review and interview by Gerard Bonner

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