Keith Childress

Songwriter and vocalist Keith Childress may be best known for material that others have taken to heights (“Once” from Londa Larmond, “Stand Up” from O’landa Draper, “I Am The Righteousness” from Natalie Wilson and the SOP Chorale).

On his first solo project, Childress may change that.

Unity is a lovingly assembled independent release that serves up a collection of eleven pieces spanning the musical spectrum. Childress writes it all, adding his own Keith Childress CDrich vocals to several of the cuts as well. The songwriter himself classifies his songwriting gift as "eclectic, with something for everybody; styles that cross cultural, racial and age barriers." All true!

More than simply a melody-creator, Childress has been gifted with an ability to meshing tune with the essence of the lyrical message. Of course the words are indispensible; yet it seems as if the notes themselves are ‘telling us’ the praise.

Joining him are several New York notables, including Sherry McGhee (of The McClurkin Project, see album review) on “We Lift You Up”. Joining in duet with Don Corey Washington, McGhee renders floating and meditative vocals. Washington enters with his rich tenor before the chorus swells into a strings-enhanced praise.

Nancey Jackson (see album review) is also on this project. She sings with Childress on “Your Name”, a propellant song with busy island percussion lifting up the praise and worship.

Karla Scott CD
 CD Accompanied by only piano and the occasional flute, North Carolina native Karla Scott smooths her classically-trained pipes over a set of familiar hymns on her debut, Joyriver.

Her purpose —praise —is as clear as the tone she uses to deliver it. Songs such as as "Be Thou My Vision", "This Little Light of Mine" and "It Is Well With My Soul" are framed by a soft and meditative approach with just a touch of jazz.

The acappella "Take My Life And Let It Be" comes with modulation, and is the highpoint of the project.
The island vibe runs deep through other areas of the project, helped no doubt, by participation of Jamaica’s Jon Williams as instrumentalist, arranger and producer. The title track “Unity” is performed by dub poets Kevin and Robin, with vocals from Andrew Lawrence and Debra Dixon. The exotic sounds on the track fits the theme of cross-cultural unity in Jesus Christ that the song expresses.

The standout cut on the project is also the most unusual. Childress sets “Jesus Be Glorified” into a musical framework more closely associated with Handel or Bach than with contemporary or traditional Gospel. Karla Scott brings a soulful operatic feel to her soprano vocal, and David Hines likewise with his tenor voice. With woodwinds and strings in baroque stylings, the song is underpinned with soft but persistent rhythms. The song simply takes off into praise.

Elsewhere, Childress solos frequently (as do several other guest vocalists such as Pat Welch and Bryan Williams). “I Will Rejoice” and “I Delight In You” are softly contemporay in approach, with complex musical tapestries supporting each.

This is a music-lovers project. Even more so, Unity is a project that witnesses to the spirit of the worshipper of Jesus Christ.

Producer: Jon Williams
album release date: October, 2001

— reviewed by Stan North

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