Erica Campbell

LaShun did. CeCe did. Mattie Moss Clark's girls (Karen, Dorinda, Twinkie, Jackie) all did. And now Erica Campbell is doing it.

Each of these phenomenal women took the risk of going solo while their group was on hiatus. After 13 years being one half of the dynamic duo Mary Mary with her sister Tina Campbell and spawning timeless hits as "Shackles", "Heaven", and "Go Get It," Erica Campbell is stepping into the individual spotlight.

GOSPELflava.com had the chance to chat with Campbell about her new solo project, Help, on My Block Records / eOne, and what's next.

Billed as a project with themes of "faith, encouragement and a confidence in God," the project delivers. When asked what people can expect from her debutCD release Campbell said, "I wanted it to sound uniquely me." She further explained, "I didn't want it to sound like a microwave of Mary Mary songs with a solo rendition."

With the assistance of her writer-producer hubby Warryn Campbell, sister Tina, Gerald and Tammi Haddon, and Percy Bady all serving as songwriters, the 13-track Help showcases Campbell's own originative sound.

The first single, "A Little More Jesus", is a joyous, hand-clapping, foot-stomping worshipful song all about the petition of God's help along life's journey. The track, which Tina helped to write, was also nominated for Best Gospel Song at the 2014 Grammy Awards. "It's great to have Tina's support" the older sister acknowledged. "She's there cheering me on 100 percent and I truly appreciate that." As chronicled on their hit reality TV show "Mary Mary" on the WEtv Network, Tina wanted to take some time off to concentrate on family matters.

The title track features Grammy Award winning gospel hip-hop artist Lecrae. On this enduring song of supplication, Campbell liberates her heart and soul as Lecrae's stouthearted rhymes cradle her rich vocals. Surprisingly, Lecrae was not initially slated to appear on the album. "The original track was already written as a solo with no rap. But Warryn rewrote the song and asked Lecrae to be a part of it. And it just turned out great!"

Additionally, if you listen close enough on the track you'll hear another Campbell —her daughter Krista. "Yes, my baby sang all the parts in the opening. I was so proud of her" relished Campbell.

Erica Campbell The opening track on the project is the heart-wrenching ballad "The Question," which posits the century old query, "Who killed Jesus?" Campbell's silvery-rich alto vocal with her poignant musical reply will leave you in gentle tears as you reflect on the selflessness of Jesus. "You Are" is a big and bossy, head-bobbing tune which exclaims the goodness of God, whereas "I'm A Fan," written by songwriting twosome Gerald and Tammi Haddon, showcases a mind-to-mouth, wistful image of stroll on a beautiful day expressing the wonderment of God's works.

Last year Erica and Tina lost their beloved father Eddie Atkins, Jr. to a battle with cancer. By way of tribute, Campbell does a superlative job on a warm, 70's soul-shaped song simply entitled "Eddie." "I wanted to do something for my father but for other fathers too" the "Yesterday" singer said. "Fathers play a major role for the family and I was certainly grateful for mine."

Musically Mary Mary has always been trendsetters. Now the lone Mary, Campbell continues this legacy with incorporating new genres styles intertwined with her sound. This is displayed in the country-pop fusion in "Looking Like" and the high-spirited, fist pumping anthem "P.O.G" (Power of God). Both tread fearlessly into these categories without compromising the sacredness of the gospel message.

The subsequent tracks straight-out percolate with power and praise. "More than a Lover", written by Campbell and her husband, is a dance floor-friendly ode about love and relationships with an EDM-influence. And "Nobody Else" is an unexpected but splendid surprise, with its rhythms and syncopation reminiscent of the late great Michael Jackson. It left Campbell herself to ask the question of her husband, "What in the world do you sing over this?". From a listen, you can hear that she figured it out! The result is an infectious ditty in which Campbell sings effortlessly about giving God credit for the mammoth blessings we have received.

Upon departing the praise party in the previous tracks, Campbell closes her inaugural release with two ballads. "What most people don't know about me is I love standards and ballads" she confessed. "I love people like Michael Buble, Barbara Streisand, and Oleta Adams." Their influences Erica Campbellcan certainly be evidenced on "All I Need Is You." This tune, another penned tother with Mr. Campbell, is a musical equation along the lines of 'earnest + impassioned = comely worship.'

"Changes," written by Percy Bady, follows with a similar tranquil and composed vocal regarding life and understanding transitional moments as written in Ecclesiastes 3.

From watching the Mary Mary show, you know the sister duo is incessantly busy. Although she's gone solo, don't expect Campbell to slow down much. Her agenda for the immediate future is chock full of projects outside of promoting her alum. "I will be headlining the McDonald's Celebration Tour (this summer), I have a children's book coming out, and a hair line."

Help is a musical cornucopia of plenty featuring elements of soul, dance, rock, blues, R&B, country and pop —all cemented in gospel. These successful components along with the profusion of songwriting talents involved foretell that Help will certainly help whoever listens.

Across the globe she has been widely known as one of the Marys of Mary Mary. However this solo project resoundingly says ladies and gentlemen... introducing Erica Campbell.

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Production: Various
album release date: March 25, 2014
My Block Records / eONE

— review by John Burton Jr.

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