Based On A True Story

Sandtown more than impresses in their national debut on Gotee Records. Yes, this Baltimore-based community group is a children's choir, but to leave at that does them no justice.

CDAbounding in the sort of energy that only young voices like these can deliver, their sound is astoundingly urban, infused with a glorious hope based on scriptural truth. Their label debut is titled Based On A True Story, and while the choir has two previous independently-released albums, this effort should catapult them into wide recognition.

Several well-placed cameos from known Gospel artists (tobymac, Israel Houghton, Michael W. Smith, Lisa Kimmey, The Katinas) certainly help, but really, they serve to cement an already strong project. Several powerful soloists from within choir ranks step forward and impress.

Things kick off with "Part Of Me", creating a remarkable first impression. Gotee's co-founder and energetic hip hop chameleon, tobymac, guests on the cut, easily integrating his flow into Sandtown's mass urban power. Soloist Tierra Hathaway on lead vocals comfortably expresses that "sometimes I laugh, sometimes I cry, you're always right there by my side".

Switching to ballad style, "I Love You Lord" is blessed by Israel Houghton out front. Acoustic guitar touches mark the cut as Sandtown turns to a praise and worship focus in
Based On A True Story
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one-on-one conversation with God. The song flows into the like-minded "Love Overflowing", a gentle bobbing praise featuring David Gaines' soulful voice, and then the prayer "Hear Me When I Pray".

Other highlights are the cover of U2's "Pride (In the name of Love)" featuring Michael W. Smith and "Walk With Me" which brings in The Katinas.

"Way You Love Me" showcases the choir's inner strength, as Leah Smith steps forward with a soulful performance that flows step in step with the song's head-nodding and grooving chorus.

"Rescue Me" references the woman who just wanted to touch the hem of Jesus' garment, and is one of lovliest melodies on the album, bringing in the familiar voice of Lisa Kimmey of Out of Eden.

But it's the song "Destiny" that best sums up the spirit and the essence of Sandtown —a bold, head-held-high profession of faith and courage. Sandtown's young Sharandall "Shoodie" Moses offers a quality rap mid-song, following lines from both choir director Alvin Richardson and Jasmine Masklin:

"I'm determined, nobody can stop me now, cause I'm in this for longevity, I'm more than a conqueror, cause He perfected me…."

—from Sandtown's "Destiny"

Producers: Steve Taylor, Alvin Richardson, Todd Collins.
album release date: May 6, 2003
Gotee Records

— reviewed by Stan North —

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