True Believers
Don't Count Me Out

It’s obviously no secret when your CD cover shows you decked out in jean suits. Quartet for sure, but True Believers also brings a contemporary True Believers CDedge to their flava. Make a note of these names: Dale Hall, Castro Coleman, Antonio Coney and Terry and Patrick Vernado.

How good are they? Well you don’t have notables like Paul Porter and Melvin Williams stop by with guest spots for nothing. With the Turn-Table Productions expertise of The Williams Brothers behind this project, and a dazzling collection of highly accessible material from songwriters such as Terrel Gatlin, Doug Williams and Melvin Williams, you can already put a star beside this one.

The remake of Hezekiah Walker’s “Clean Inside” delights both the quartet fan and those with urban ears on the opening track, as these believers from McComb, Mississippi shake up the house with clean vocals, blender harmonies and adding zing courtesy of Doug Williams’ arrangment and additional lyrics.

No sooner has the last chord ebbed when Terrell Gatlin’s “Waitin’” zooms into the ear, with its traditional bent and catchy hooks. And when you’ve wiped the sweat from your brow, “Don’t Leave Me Jesus” kicks in, making you reach for a fresh towel. Written by Paul Porter and guest featuring the anointed singer on lead, there’s some crazy traded lines ripped between him and the group, with the EnPraise Singers making the lyrics soar in the background. Whew!

“Another Blessing” is yes, another hot track. From the pen of Melvin Williams, this one rides along a tight rhythm line from Evans and plenty bass from Derrick Horne, with thanks-laden vocals on top from Terry Vernado and supporting chorus from the other True Believers. Williams himself steps in vocally on the slower riding, “Everything I Have”.

True BelieversOn “Don’t Count Me Out”, Antonio Coney testifies that God doesn’t let go, amidst a wonderfully smooth glide of vocals supporting him. The power of true testimony is awesome, and this track packs a whallop on that strength alone.

Instrumentally, the boys in the band (Dwayne Weatherspoon, Donald Sargent, Lance Cain) are supplemented by some seasoned vets: Horne on bass, June Evans on drums, the percussive wah-tar and worm, and Maulty Jewell IV on keys, organ and piano. Dwight Gordon’s guitar is all over this disc, brightening the sound and adding zest to the proceedings.

We’ll hold our breath here and go on record in saying that this project already has our nod for one of the year’s best traditional projects, and it’s still January. And at the risk of sounding repetitive, we’ll say this again: any quartet that can successfully pull off a cover of a classic Hezekiah Walker groove deserves respect from more than just the quartet demographic.

Producers: Melvin Williams, Doug Williams, Paul Porter
album release date: January, 2001
Blackberry Records

— reviewed by Stan North

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