Today's CD racks of urban Gospel are stuffed with enough choice to
make your head dizzy and your eyes water.Producer: Warryn Campbell
album release date: May 2, 2000
So, what does it take to stand out? Snazzy cover art? Intriguing name? Unusual group
composition? Mary Mary has all these qualities there's no doubt about that. But on
hearing their project, you very quickly realize that the duo have a lot
more going on here than just superficials.
Sisters Erica and Tina Atkins (Mary Mary) are quite simply the complete musical 'real deal'. Gifted with an awesome anointing that
is revealed in their songwriting, their vocals and their delivery, they go far beyond technical
artistry, and truly need to be experienced to be understood.
There's no lyrical ambiguity on this project, as Jesus Christ is unabashedly confessed. Even
the sweet sound of the grooves they concoct seem to have
purpose. The world might raise their hands to pump a fist to these
beats, and while they're up there, catch themselves giving Him
the praise (see
While the styles on the thirteen-cut debut are diverse, they easily flow together from
track to track. Dance rhythms emerge on the groovy title track, and hip-hop sensibilities
effortlessly push their way through on "I Sing" (complete with a smooth rap cameo from Gospel hip-hop's
fast-rising star, B.B. Jay). Warryn Campbell is behind the production
board on nearly every song, so give him props lots of props.
The song sequencing on the album stands out as masterful as well.
Racing up radio charts across multiple formats, racking up spins, and even adopted as
the entry anthem for boxer Michael
Grant, "Shackles (Praise You)" is the keyboard-riddled
and catchy lead single on Thankful. Picking that cut must have been harder than
choosing only one chocolate bar from a corner store's inventory, because there's
plenty of equal quality here.
For example, "Wade in the Water". Soulful and contemporary, this
take on the beloved spiritual comes complete with
an incredibly heart-thumping bass line performed by Andrew
Gouché, and a ingeneous mix of
fender rhodes, organ and heavy guitar riffs. Chorus work comes courtesy of a tight ensemble
that includes names such as Eric Dawkins, Keisha Ealy and Chris Bolton.
The duo know how to sing a ballad, and there's a few on this album, such as "Be
Happy" or "One Minute". But the killer is "Still My Child", which
possesses an overpowering beauty. With vocals wrapped in soft
live strings orchestrated by maestro Jerry Peters and performed by
Charles Veal's orchestral collective, they swell with
every emotion offered to heaven in a conversational lyricism that is at the same time
masterful and moving.
You'll find a guest appearance from Destiny's Child on "Good 2 Me". With a funky
beat, intriguing production effects and thanks-filled lyrics, it's a 6-voice ride to remember.
Also noteworthy is the millenial interpretation of James
Cleveland's "No Ways Tired", which goes
under the name "Can't Give Up Now". Tina and Erica recruited a bunch of their friends to form
the choir that accompanies them on the cut, which
transforms into a stomping, nearly accapella clap-fest by the
time it winds down.
Simply put, Mary Mary has set a whole new standard for Gospel. This project is a masterpiece.
Columbia / Myrrh
reviewed by Stan North —
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