Several have dabbled with the instrument, but the heralded master of this instrument was the late Roger Troutman. Some have sampled the instrument in a song or two, but using it as the lead 'vocals' on a project rarely happens.
Byron Chambers steps out of the shadows and into the forefront with his talkbox, leading the way on his debut project, My Testimony. Following Rufus Troutman’s No Compromise, Chambers gives us only the second exclusively talkbox-based Gospel project. That qualification alone makes it worth a listen. Add to this that Chambers is affectionately known as “Mr. Talkbox” and has used these skills on tour with N’Sync at the height of their music run, and you just have to pay attention to this one.
The challenge of a project of this nature is avoiding monotony, or put another way, accenting diversity. Have no fear. Chambers is up for the challenge and shows why he has his nickname.
The thirteen-track project begins with an appropriate intro titled “I Play the Talkbox”, which explains his gifting to play the talkbox, and aptly prepares you for a journey filled with varied interpretations of his unusual instrument.
“Destiny” is a funk-laden track that has Chambers encouraging all to strive for and press towards their destiny. It’s a guaranteed head-nodding track that, quite frankly, is exciting and will get your blood pumpin’.
As you can imagine, Chambers has no problem in the “straight up jam” department. “Tell Somebody” admonishes believers to tell others about the power of the Holy Spirit. “I Need You” is a mid-tempo groove that could be funk’s equivalent to Smokie Norful’s “I Need You Now”, as it stresses our need for Christ’s continued presence in our lives.
“In Control” acknowledges God’s control over our lives in the midst of events that we simply don’t understand. “I Made It” is another slow jam that deserves a serious listen. Chambers shares his testimony of God’s ability to bring him through difficult times.
Chambers handles the production duties of this project and plays the bulk of the instruments on all tracks. “Faithful” is one of the few songs that features live instrumentation and features Chambers on drums and keyboards. Ivan Santiago handles bass, John Rodz is on lead guitar, while Edwin Santiago handles the live horn section. The song speaks of God’s faithfulness over time and allows the talkbox to shine with live instrumentation. Both Ivan and Edwin Santiago join Chambers on “It’s Alright” to continue that slick feel of live instrumentation.
Chambers steps away from the talkbox and shares his unfiltered vocals on “He’ll Bring You Through”. This slow jam is backed by Lolita Rowe and Alicia Chambers. The song is gorgeous as the three harmonize as well as any other vocal crew in the industry, while heralding God’s ability to guide through any storm or unpredictability that life brings. This winning team returns on “America”, a track that offers hope to our nation and reminds us of the strength upon which it was founded. It’s an appropriate song for an appropriate time.
Perhaps the amazing element of this project is that, after a while, you get past the fact that Chambers is so skillful on the talkbox and you’re able to concentrate on the message of the project. Chambers proficiently becomes transparent and openly shares the struggles, fears, and successes that come with living a Spirit-led life. That’s the essence of any testimony and as such, is the essence of “Mr. Talkbox”.
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— reviewed by Gerard Bonner —
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