Walter Hawkins
A Song In My Heart

Who hasn't listened to a Love Alive project and wondered to themselves when Bishop Walter Hawkins would issue his own solo project? With one of the most loved and identifiable voices in Gospel, his music never fails to capture the heart.

CDHow fitting, then, that Hawkins would launch his very own label, Coda Records, with that long-desired solo effort titled fittingly enough, A Song In My Heart.

The 14-song studio project more than satisfies expectations.

All the Hawkins regulars join in on this project, including Joel Smith (bass guitar), Carl Wheeler (keys), Jonathan Dubose (guitar), plus several familiar vocalists who contribute backing vocals here and there (including Brenda Roy, Rusty Watson and Antoin Timmons).

Plus, Walter Hawkins Jr. (Jamie Hawkins), adds his considerable gift to the set, not only with his instrumental expertise, but also with frequent songwriting and vocal contributions.

Walter HawkinsThe result of this father and son collaboration is sublime, with the pinnacle being the gorgeous "Highest Praise", a praise and worship duet between the two. Jamie Hawkins' butter vocals and Walter Hawkins' soaring tenor are woven together over acoustic piano and live strings (conducted by Jeremy Lubbock), with backing choir softly flowing underneath.

Hawkins embraces a variety of musical approaches on the album, beginning with the title track. Lashed to a vibrant Latin rhythm, the song moves quickly and easily over its four minutes, Hawkins' phrasing his vocals with just enough edge to fit the genre.

"Give It To Jesus" closes in on urban borders, with its near-funk percussion chunk and beat-driven packaging. Along much the same lines is "Wanna Say Thank You Lord". Both of these cuts feature track from Jamie Hawkins.

Walter Hawkins then honors the late Pop Staples on the "Staple Singers Tribute (Help Me Jesus)", with Lynette Hawkins-Stephens and Edwin Hawkins joining him in delivering their take on the popular song from the famous family group.

On "A Prayer Away", the Gospel legend embraces that gloriously rich "Hawkins sound", with full vocals, complex band jam underpinnings and a modulating song structure that just keeps on driving, full throttle, to song end.

Walter HawkinsLongtime collaborator Kevin Bond sits at the piano on "Almighty God". Bond's fingerwork and Hawkins voice are all that are needed to make this song resonate.

Other songs to note are "All I Know", a reflective, balladic composition that showcases Hawkins' pipes over meditative strings, and the Antoine Timmons penned "For Who You Are", set in classic Hawkins style.

A Song In My Heart is a wonderful album that will surely become a favorite not only for fans of Hawkins' music, but for anyone wishing to immerse themselves into Gospel music at its finest. It's an auspicious debut for Coda Records.

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Producers: Walter Hawkins
album release date: August, 2004
Coda Records

— reviewed by Stan North

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