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.Producers: James Hillian Jr. and Keith Brannon
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. Rather, 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)
reviewed by Stan North —
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