The Hillian Ensemble
Psalms Inspired By God

One of the steepest hills in the Gospel industry begins with an independently-released CD. While the foot of this climb is crowded with many artists jostling for position, that number is considerably dwindled by the time of mid-ascent. Based on the debut Psalms Inspired By God, The Hillian Ensemble appears to be one of those few headed for the top.

The tone of this project, with its worship vibe and praise foundation, makes it clear that this chorale of about 20 prioritizes their ministry to the broken in heart and spirit. This is not done by preaching. The Hillian EnsembleRather, the ensemble weave together a tight knit of Gospel song and ballad that by their direct and personal expression of joyful gratitude to Jesus, provide an irresistable draw to join with them.

Musical director James Hillian Jr. pens most of the psalms on this disc, which vary from the booming acappella spiritual “I’ve Got It” to the reverent and soulful anthem “Sacrifice of Praise”. Hillian is also responsible for the consistent production which never distracts.

The church-based ensemble (Rising Star Holy Temple Church, based in Chapel Oaks, Maryland) is backed by a very able band that can lay down a steady groove when appropriate and knows when to bring it down and support the vocals and three-part harmony when required. The lead vocals of Hillian and others in the ensemble (Chevela Locus, Jesse McNeil and others) make for a steady and appealing variety of vocal quality. Each soloist is good. The songs are mostly on the mid-tempo tip, however the quality of the compositions makes the lack of faster rhythms irrelevant.

But as much as these elements can be discussed separately, it is the strength of the ensemble as a whole that gives this project its strength, as band, lead vocalists and chorus mesh to give a tight unity. It may be clichéd to say that a group is anointed --you hear this all the time, and it's not always the case, even with a Gospel group. But to not declare the anointing in this case would be wrong, for the anointing of this group is manifested in every single one of the nine cuts included in the project.

Give credit to this dynamic crew of psalmists for a remarkable debut. Of the multitude of independent artists vying for a spot in your CD disc changer this year, you would do well to clear some some room for The Hillian Ensemble.

(This CD may be hard to find; if it's not at your local Gospel music store, you can order it directly from the artist's management group, Like That Enterprises, at 301-608-8033)

Producers: James Hillian Jr. and Keith Brannon
Paris Entertainment

— reviewed by Stan North —

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