Vetrea Slack Ruffin and the Ruffin Family
Help Me Render Completely

Family-tight vocals and anointed lyricism are two of the qualities evident on this project from the Alabama-based Gospel group. As one of the artists on the Unity label, Vetrea Slack Ruffin and the Ruffin Family bring their soulful expression to the fore on Help Me Render Completely.

Vocally consisting of lead vocals from Vetrea Slack Ruffin, prominent backup from daughters Lacretia and Angelica, and with the support of an experienced band and a collective of talented Alabama recording and church choirs, the vibe to thisHelp Me Render Completely CD debut is classic contemporary. The occasional emphasis on unison vocals is reminiscent at times to the unmistakeable Clark Sisters sound.

The project kicks off with six studio cuts, followed by eight songs which were recorded live at the Draper Memorial COGIC in Huntsville. The highlight of the studio set is "Be Healed, Be Delivered & Set Free", where the smooth meshed vocals of the Ruffin threesome combine to foster a cool groove. The set is also notable for "He's Been So Good", a praise laid over a killer funk-injected track, and "Then Came The Word" which successfully relies on that Clark Sisters-ish unison approach.

On the live segment, "This Time" stands out as a showcase for Slack Ruffin's soaring soprano upper range. Never resorting to vocal flamboyance, she never-the-less frequently takes the melody to stunning reaches in the context of the message portrayed in the lyric "this time I'm going all the way in Jesus". The family connections strengthen on the traditional-etched "Bold Soldier", where Slack Ruffin joins in duet with her mother, Vetrea Davidson Slack.

Songwriting on the CD comes from a variety of sources, including Slack-Ruffin and label-mates, Eric Hutton and Cleopha Pair Jr (who also produce). There's also two original compositions from the prolific pen of former CGI/Platinum artist, Eddie James ("This Is That" and "The Anointing"). The latter song features guest soloist, Stanley Samuel, whose name may be familiarVetrea Slack Ruffin with daughters Lacretia and Angelica to some as lead vocalist for the Birmingham-based contemporary trio, Trinity (formerly with Jaxvil Records). Samuel's seasoned tenor pipes contrast nicely with the Ruffin's vocal work.

As is often found amongst family Gospel groups (see the review for The Wright Family), the closeness of the family bond shines through beautifully, with the recording conveying a sincerity of tone, a warmth of heart and a joyful spirit that is consistent with the Gospel message contained in the songs.

Thoroughly enjoyable and quality-infused throughout, Vetrea Slack Ruffin and the Ruffin Family give the Gospel nation another gem of a family project. Making the effort to find this low profile release will be worthwhile.

Producers: Eric Hutton, Cleopha Pair Jr.
album release date: late 1999
Unity Records

reviewed by Stan North

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