Harvey Watkins Jr.
It's In My Heart

Retailer, artist manager and devoted traditional Gospel enthusiast are words to describe Ms. Willie McClendon, who debuts Gospelflava.com’s new quartet column, titled Shouts and Drives. Below she also offers her take on the debut solo project from one of Gospel’s most beloved traditional aritsts, Harvey Watkins Jr.

As lead singer for The Canton Spirituals, the smooth persona and nonchalant style of singing of Harvey Watkins, Jr. is well known.

CDOn It’s In My Heart, Watkins steps away from his comfort zone with the Cantons and records his first solo project, recorded live in Raymond, MS for Verity Records.

The album is full of power, and goes down as simply a great collaboration between friends, for it features not only the expected smooth phrasing of Watkins, but also the dynamic vocals of Doug and Melvin Williams, Keith "Wonderboy" Johnson and Paul Porter “the miracle man” of The Christainaires. Others such as Rev. M.J. Williams, The Spring Hill Center Choir and the quartet Purpose also join in.

Watkins wrote most of the songs, along with contributions from his homeboys Doug and Melvin Williams and Paul Porter, who co-produced the project. Musicians Richard Gibbs, Derrick Lee, Wallace Strickland, Jay Johnson, Chambers E. Alford and David Curry are slammin' and lock into a groove that drives the messages straight to your heart and into your soul.

You could say that when he stepped out, he went straight to church, walked down the aisle to the choir stand and back out to the street. While Watkins doesn't leave his roots, he does expand his territory to give a little something to everybody, offering up music that invokes the presence of the Holy Ghost.

Harvey Watkins Jr.And like all good traditional projects, there's no way you can listen to these songs without stomping your feet, clapping your hands or nodding your head. The vocals are tight and each song is filled with anointed fire.

The opening cut, “You Brought Me”, is written by Watkins and sets the tone for the entire project. The message is strong here, as it is on each of the other fourteen tracks.

“Be Careful” featuring Watkins with Paul Porter is a favorite, taking you straight to the Mississippi Delta with it's R&P feel. Then there’s “Be More Like You”, which brings in Doug Williams and The Spring Hill Center Choir. The song is filled with words that expresses the desire to “wanna be what God created us to be” and explodes with a strong churchy feel.

Melvin Williams joins both Doug and Harvey Watkins on the title track and also on “Blessings Keep Coming”. Both leave you swaying to the beat with your hands lifted in praise. Then comes that prequisite foot stomper, “Everything I Need”, with Keith "Wonderboy" Johnson taking a bow, and making the song permeate sheer spiritual energy.

The project concludes with Watkins alone with guitarist Chalmers Alford (aka "Spanky"), who actually ‘spanks” the guitar, making it talk back as Watkins demonstrates love for country with his smooth rendition of “America The Beautiful”.

Producers: Harvey Watkins Jr., Paul Porter and Wallace Strickland
album release date: June 17, 2003
Verity Records

— review by Ms. Willie McClendon

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