Crystal Lewis

Album theme: 2 Timothy 1:7
"God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind."

Ever since her appearance with Kirk Franklin on the attention-gaining "Lean on Me" cut from his Nu Nation Project, Crystal Lewis has enjoyed a fresh awareness from those immersed in the Gospel world. This is her first solo project since her renowned appearance with Bono, Kirk, Mary J. Blige, Gerald Levert and others on the 1999 Grammy Awards broadcast.Fearless CD However, Lewis has been going strong for far longer than that. Fearless is the 16th project for the 30 year old singer.

With that much of a legacy behind her, Lewis can afford to take some detours. Picking up such formidable and renowned musicians as Jyro Zhan on keys, Nathan East on bass and Vinnie Colaiuta on drums certainly lets her do that, as she offers up a wide range of styles and displays diverse influences. The result is a sound that practically defies labelling.

She also brings Kirk Franklin with her for a portion of the ride, as he lends his production and subtle ad lib vocals to her big vocal number, "I Believe". This Ďreturn favorí for "Lean on Me" works wonderfully, as Lewis colors her vocals perfectly to fit with Franklinís trademark balladic touch.

Franklin also lends his vocal arrangements to a number of other cuts on the disc, as interpreted by the fine and select group of singers that includes two names famous in their own right: Rahsaan Patterson and Sheree Ford-Payne.

Another project highlight is the alternative/urban tinged, guitar riff laden and incredible hooky "One Man", written by Brian Ray, who is the albumís dominant producer, record label Crystal Lewisowner and is also Lewisí husband. The song speaks of the Ďone Man who is big enough, one Man who sees every hurtí.

Labelmate rappers T-Bone and J-Raw (of Priesthood) join Lewis on "What A Fool Iíve Been", a self-confessional addressing Godís faithfulness even when we turn away from Him. The entry of these rappers mid-track is interesting, since the vibe of the song doesnít flow in standard hip-hop patterns. Yet the street rap finds a nice fit.

The project ends with a trio of beautifully patterned and soul deep compositions ("My Friend", "Change My Heart" and "I Will Go"). These further entrench Lewis as a Ďcan-do-it-allí artist: creative, expressive, lyrically profound and possessing a seriously ministering heart.

In total, this CD ignores pre-set boundaries, with Crystal Lewis crossing them willfully and eagerly. And successfully. Itís been said before, but it is worth repeating. To judge a book —or a CD— by pre-conceived notions, is to do so at your own peril. That is certainly the case with Fearless.

Producers: Brian Ray, Kirk Franklin, Rhett Lawrence
album release date: June, 2000
Metro One / GospoCentric / Interscope

ó reviewed by Stan North ó

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