With You Always
The Jacksonville, Florida based pastor of Open Arms Christian Fellowship is no stranger to the live mic, having added his vocals to projects from artists such as Allen and Allen, Georgia Mass Choir and Pastor Rudolph McKissick Jr.
On With You Always, together with Elder Michael Cobb and the Open Arms Praise Team, Thomas comes into his own, rendering both familiar hymns and originals with his wide-ranging and multi-textured tenor pipes. Troy Sneed produces.
Take Andre Forbes' "Sweet Spirit" as an example of the quality that Thomas delivers. Using the song's structure as his base, Thomas freely roams around it, staying with the melody, but frequently detouring into musical episodes and ad libs that lend the piece a spontaneous feel.
"He Steps In" features Thomas' soaring voice over Derrieux Edgecombe's piano work and uptempo band support. Choir call and response adds traditional oomph to the work before the final fade. "All You Need" ups the tempo even further, with choir parts busily intertwining with each other.
The title cut "With You Always" is contrasting selection, a ballad from Omega Forbes. Rick Watford's acoustic guitar tenderizes the piece, as Thomas sings comfortingly of God's continual care for us.
The album's centerpiece is "Never Would Have Made It", a double-track that spans over 15 minutes in length. Vibrant and powerfully rendered, and with sensitive musical accompaniment, this cut is what musical testimony is all about.
Pastor Thomas concludes the album with a collection of wonderful, traditionally-delivered hymns, pouring his heart and soul into "Draw Me Nearer", "The Blood" and "Power In The Blood".
Emtro Gospel has quickly established itself as a label with an open heart for church-rooted Gospel. Pastor Leofric Thomas's With You Always debut further strengthens that reality.
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— reviewed by Stan North —
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