Sleeper Roundup, May 2000

By all accounts, Gospel music is making inroads like never before, and is pegged by many as one of the fastest growing genres on the block. Evidence of this is in the sheer numbers of albums being released. Not only have established industry names such as MCA, Columbia and Tommy Boy made some impact of late, but small independent labels have been sprouting across the land, sporting a wide variety of artist rosters.

But perhaps the biggest segment of contribution comes from the independents, be it the local church opening up a recording division, or a local singer opening up their basement to sell recordings they’ve made.

With quantity doesn’t always come quality however, and that’s a fact that anyone with a large Gospel collection knows. You have to be selective in your choice, or risk running your grocery bill into the ground.

On the other hand, more than ever before, it has become easy to miss that stunner project, or to overlook that jam-riddled disc that if you had even heard a note of, you would have snapped up faster than a New York minute.

In a effort to help with that, we’ve pulled together a selection of some sleepers over the past 12 months or so —albums that have received far less attention than they deserve. Check ‘em out!

Maurette Brown-Clark
How I Feel
How I Feel CD If awards offer any validation, Brown-Clark's Stellar for Best New Artist puts her right on the mark. With most of the songs penned by her, and seamless production by Steven Ford, it's a mystery why the sales numbers didn’t materialize. Not currently signed, and busy with her newborn, where she will land and what she will do next is most anticipated! (Full review)

Howard Smith
Seasons Change
Howard Smith Gospel
Seasons Change CD Veteran Howard Smith demonstrates that time has only improved his sound. You probably never heard about this project because it’s very independent. But don’t let that stop you from kickin’ back to today’s revamped sound with a 70’s vibe of this former Andrae Crouch collaborator. Mellow is the word, and the Word is obviously imprinted throughout the entire disk. (Full review)

Greater St. Stephen Full Gospel Mass Choir
As For Me and My House
As For Me and My House CD Why this one never got much press or play is anyone's guess. Stamped with high profile cameos from Ron Winans, BeBe Winans and Byron Cage, this is Bishop Paul S. Morton’s church choir, and they deliver again and again in a powerful and churchy collection of melody and praise. Check the vocal contributions by up an’ comer, Paul Morton Jr. (the Bishop’s son!). (Full review)

Divine Nature
Part of Me
Part of Me In 1999, for both Gospel and R&B alike, male groups were everywhere. Somewhere in the shuffle, Divine Nature, with their tight harmonies and stellar songwriting skills, got lost. Coupled with sparkling arrangement and production by Derek S. Clark, this quartet was a sure contender for some top slot somewhere. Not really sure why the world didn't hear about 'em, but I'm glad to have Part of Me locked snugly in my disc player! (Full review)

University of Mississippi Gospel Choir
Send Up The Praise
Send Up The Praise CD This college choir sounds anything but collegiate, which is probably why Malaco was so fast to snap them up and add them to their roster. Strong on ballads but also geared to give groove a good push, the material on this disc showcases the musical and producion talents of Jason Clark. Lend your ear to the future, as you’ll be hearing more of that name, no doubt. (Full review)

Lorraine Stancil
You Are My Everything
SGM / Anointed Sounds
You Are My Everything Lorraine Stancil could probably work "Mary Had a Little Lamb", but her last release gives you quite a bit more in content. The lady with the golden voice has been around workshop circles for years, but many new Gospel fans still have not witnessed the gilded pipes with range a-plenty. Smooth production by her son, the unsung Kevin Stancil, adds nicely. Make sure you reach back for this one. (Full review)

Wilmington Chester Mass Choir
Hosannah! And They Sang The Word
AIR Gospel
Hosannah! And They Sang The Word CD Nominated for a Grammy award this year, they deserved to win. Hearing is believing. (Full review)

Saints with A Vision
Calling All Saints
Calling All Saints Some projects take longer than others to build momentum. Only now ranking on the Billboard charts, it’s an indication of the new Meek Records direction, and offers a pot pourri of urban, jazz, traditional and smoothed out ballads, all under the direction of Pharis Evans Jr. (Full review)

Angelo & Veronica
Change CD With J. Moss on everyone’s producer wish list, and Donald Lawrence in high demand, kudos go to whoever put them together on one CD. Both work wonders with Angelo and Veronica, who never disappoint in their ability to scorch a slow urban blaze of praise in their husband and wife duet offerings. (Full review)

— reviewed by Stan North and Melanie Clark—

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