Joe Smith featuring Blessings and Praise
Call Him Up

Detroit Gospel continues to impress with this live choir project coming from the creativity of producer and songwriter Joe Smith.

Notable on this project is the participation of Larry Whitfield, who offers up a gloriously lengthy and gutsy lead vocal on the Thomas Whitfield-penned cut, “God Wants Our Praises”. It’s an example of pure Detroit Joe Smith featuring 
Blessings and Praise CDgroove, blessedly raw in exhuberance and supported by a well-balanced sound from the band, with special mention to the stellar bass workings by Charles “Volley” Craig.

Shunning slick, and sticking to rootsy is a formula that works for this collective, since they have the necessary ingredients in abundance: good tunes, tight bandwork, steady vocalists and a jammy motown choir sound full of B3-swirls. A quick check of those involved in the band crew indicates that this quality isn’t a fluke, as there’s a heavy dosing of experienced musicianship responsible. Marcus Abernathe on keys, Curtis Pearson on organ and David Modok on drums are examples of that.

You need search no further than the opening track “Lift the Saviour” to find quality cuts, and the searching remains easy after that. “Take My Life” successfully fuses elements of the hymn classic “I Surrender” into the melody before morphing into a slowly soulful original with lead from Kelli Jones. From the pen of Ricky Grundy, the title cut, “Call Him Up” has what it takes for the song to linger.

“When The Praises Go Up, The Blessings Come Down” also impacts, with Conru Carpenter and Regina Murff staking out some very listenable solos amidst an infectious choir drive and smatterings of organ fiddlings and solid, persistent beats. There’s an interestingly diverse remix to this cut tacked onto the end of the project. A soft jazz tone is worked into the remake, courtesy of significant high-note piano workings, steady cymbal beat-keeping, and minimal choir vocals, which are simply broken down into the crucial vocal motifs of the song.

You don’t often find old school Gospel like this anymore, so the refreshment level is high. If you can squeeze another group into your list of Detroit artists to keep an ear on, then do so. Add Joe Smith.

Producer: Joe Smith
album release date: Fall, 1999
Soulfood Records

— reviewed by Stan North

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