Mississippi Mass Choir
Declaration of Dependence

In mid October, 2013 the faithful gathered from the four corners of the earth filling the Thalia Mara Hall in Jackson, Mississippi to its capacity for an evening with the Mississippi Mass Choir.

But this night was far from ordinary, for it carried a special distinction fueled by energy and excitement. This was indeed a very special occasion, for the recording recognized the 25th anniversary of the late Frank Williams' beloved choir. The audience came with great expectation and on CDthis night, they would get what they were looking for. We too are blessed, for the events of that night are all captured on disc and DVD under the banner of a Declaration of Dependence.

The music on the disc is vast and varied; nevertheless, Mississippi Mass owns every song and leaves nothing on the table. Of course, your favorite leads are here; Lillian Lily directs traffic (and causes several collisions) on "I Am the Way", Ben Cone is joined by Rhonda Chambers Davis for "Justified", and Jermichael Riley does justice to David Curry's "Wait on the Lord".

Marva McKinley needs to be arrested, for "Waymaker" is the incendiary device. So much so that after McKinley's personal testimony, the house erupted into an 'excuse me while I shout right here' praise (which is nicely captured on the recording).

And then there's Mama Mosie Burke's rendition of the Dorothy Love Coates classic, "I've Got Jesus (and that's enough)". They let an octogenarian who walks close to God and is SERIOUS about her relationship give her conversion testimony (complete with being on the mourners' bench) and then the choir joins her and they call Jesus?!?! A word to the wise, don't listen to this song while driving your car.

Now, what would an anniversary be without guests? Bishop Neal Roberson is all the way live and does a fine job of carefully meshing choir and quartet on "I'm Stick With Jesus". It's a tambourine-grabbing, rollicking number that saves the best part of the song for the end when Roberson blows his harmonica, which reminds us just why he was Albertina Walker's favorite harmonica Levite.

Because every great choir never leaves a service without offering a hymn of the church, Lecresia Campbell comes to the party to reprise :Draw Me Nearer" (first recorded by MMC's Jerry Smith and the Children of Israel). Stan Jones manages to get in a lead on "I Can See Victory" while also narrating the project's first radio single, "God's On Your Side" before handing the lead off to Sunday Best Season 3 winner, LeAndria Johnson. The message here is clear, hold on, don't quit (whatever the situation) God can handle it.

A very special feature not on the disc is the commemorative tribute to Frank Williams, which takes us down memory lane with such familiar favorites as "Your Grace and Mercy," "Having You There," "Near The Cross," "Just Can't Tell You How Good He's Been," and "Lord We Praise You." But these are only on the DVD.

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Production: Various
album release date: June, 2014

— review by Gregory Gay

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