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By Ruth Adkins Robinson
Today’s economic climate makes the entire world feel uncertain. Seldom has the music business seemed so fragile, and people in it feel like they are standing on shifting sand. But for the Zomba Gospel Group, the only shifting going on is into celebration’s high gear.

(l r) Marvin Sapp, Crystal Aikin, Kirk Franklin, Deitrick Haddon
—Photo by Jeff Grant

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The last 12 months have been historical. Out.” “I have friends from all walks of life,” With Marvin Sapp’s Thirsty and high says Carr, “and my whole purpose is to be a performing releases from gospel’s all time light to them…that’s how I live my life and top-selling artist Kirk Franklin as well as that’s what I am encouraging and reminding Deitrick Haddon, Dorinda Clark Cole, others to do on this song.” Dave Hollister and 21:03, there’s been Nikita Clegg-Fox leads on the soaring much to praise. There have been some “Spiritual Makeover Extreme,” an up-tempo serious shouts of Hallelujah in the offices track with a captivating hook proclaiming, where Jazzy Jordan is watching over the “I’m so glad I don’t look like what I’ve been activities as Senior Vice President and through.” The lively “Right Time, Right General Manager of the Zomba Gospel Place” delivers a foot-stomping frenzy. Group. Carr, who has a love and passion for A roundup of Sapp’s triumphs is preserving the gospel sounds of Africanstaggering. His seventh solo CD Thirsty American heritage, includes “I Am The One” was certified Gold, with sales over 600,000 and “Blessed Be The Rock” that, in Kurt’s units--a true benchmark for gospel product own words, are “Sunday morning, choir robe, or any product these days. The single, march down the aisle, sit down if you can “Never Would Have Made It,” hit the #1 songs!” position on the Urban AC, spent three Another Zomba Gospel heavy-hitter is quarters of the year on the charts and was Hezekiah Walker, one of the most renowned among the top selling gospel ringtones and voices of Gospel music. Mindful of the ringbacks. Sapp also camped out at the world’s conditions, he reflects this in his number one spot on Billboard’s gospel and album Souled Out, scheduled for November Christian sales charts. release. Walker says it promotes a message Commenting on the success of that that is close to his heart and that the church CD, Jordan said, “The audience felt the really needs to hear. “In this day and age message in this CD profoundly because that we’re living in—with high gas prices, we all have at least one Never-Would-Have the mortgage crisis, job problems, the Made-It moment in our lives and we all economy—a lot of times that can really hold need encouragement and inspiration.” people back from giving themselves to God This past year would have been great by and to the church,” he says. “What I’m trying any measure, but get ready for some “icing to communicate to everyone is that we have on the cake” says Jordan when talking really made up in our minds that there’s no about product in the pipeline. Zomba turning back. We’re going all the way with Gospel’s got a heavy contingency of gospel this Jesus thing. We’re completely ‘souled out’. superstars and some newcomers who’ve Our soul is completely given over to God.” lit up the TV world recently. Kurt Carr, The title track first single lit up “Good Hezekiah Walker, Donnie McClurkin and Morning America” as part of Gospel Music Donald Lawrence are the consistent heavy Heritage Month. Produced by Donald hitters. Lawrence, Souled Out fuses up-tempo Carr’s album, Just the Beginning, ships rhythms with Walker’s straight-to-the-heart —Kurt Carr, this month. He is one of those stars who worship style and traditional Gospel lyrics. describing several songs have broken through denominational Guests include Ricardo Sanchez on “Moving on his new album and ethnic barriers while performing, Forward” and Shawn McLemore on the composing, arranging and producing the reprise of the classically rendered “It Shall biggest acts in this genre and beyond. Come To Pass.” One of Walker’s personal Just the Beginning is on his newly minted Kurt Carr Gospel favorites is the melodic “God Favored Me,” featuring DJ Rogers imprint in association with Zomba Gospel and the first and Marvin Sapp. Walker says, “This is the story of my life, and since his chart-topping One Church project, but this time probably the story of most people’s lives: that the favor of the Lord around the multiple Stellar recipient has gone back to is on our side and because of God’s favor, we’ve reached heights the basics. Carr says. “These songs are very singerunknown and undreamed.” friendly, very congregational. This time, I’m going “O Give Thanks” is a traditional offering, a gem of a throwback back to my roots—church music.” piece; the waltz-like, “There’s No Way I Could Live Without You” One of the very pleasant additions to the CD is a song of thanksgiving and adoration that also works as a choral is the opening trip down memory lane. There’s a acknowledgment of the many blessings God has bestowed on the medley of Carr’s greatest hits revealing the scope life of this famed choir. and breadth of his heritage in gospel music—a Walker gets behind a microphone of a different sort with his primer of sorts for the music to come. The first radio duties hosting a show on New York’s WLIB (1190), targeting single “Peace and Favor Rest on Us” is a call to those outside the four walls of the church. He continues his worship. judging duties on Verizon’s national choir competition “How A favorite moment on the CD for Carr is Sweet the Sound,” which will conclude with the crowning of the delivered by 89-year-old Narcissus Hinton-Brown, winners on November 8th at the “How Sweet The Sound” Finale a traditional soloist from Carr’s hometown of Concert in Atlanta (Philips Arena). Hartford, Connecticut and one of his mentors. She Partly inspired by these new avenues for spreading the Word, is singing “This Little Light Of My Mine” as a Souled Out is the next chapter in Walker’s music ministry. “I’ve prequel to the affirming “Don’t Let Your Light Go PAGE

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limited the world to the circle that I’m accustomed to,” Walker says. “The Lord has been teaching me that the world is much bigger. There are a lot of people who have not yet heard Hezekiah Walker—that haven’t even heard the Gospel. The Lord is putting me in places where I can really bring the Gospel to those who haven’t heard it.” Pastor Donnie McClurkin, one of the most recognizable names and voices in gospel music in mainstream America, has earned a trophy case full of awards including two Grammys, recognition from the NAACP, Trumpet Awards, Dove, Stellar and Soul Train Music Awards. He’s appeared all over television from “The View” to “Extra” to “Good Morning America” and in films “The Gospel,” “Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” “The Prince of Egypt,” “The Donnie McClurkin Story: From Darkness to Light,” “The Fighting Temptations,” and, happily for me, on a show that I co-wrote in 2004, “Apollo at 70: A Hot Night in Harlem,” where I stood in the wings and watched it get “Holy” up in that famed old theatre. He’s appeared in spreads in most major publications, but there is nothing quite like hearing —Hezekiah Walker McClurkin’s relationship with God in his church, Perfecting Faith in Long Island, NY, or in concert. If that’s not possible, the next best thing is coming. He recorded a Live set at the Straight Gate International Church in Detroit this past September and is combining that event with songs cut in the studio. The 12-CD set will feature Karen Clark Sheard of The Clark Sisters and is his fourth release for Zomba Gospel/Verity.

The Lord is putting me in places where I can really bring the Gospel to those who haven’t heard it.”

Songs will include “Choose To Be Dancing,” “You Are My God and King,” “You Are God,” “When You Love,” “All We Ask,” “The Great I Am,” “Wait On The Lord” (featuring Karen Clark Sheard), “No One Else” and “Hallelujah Song.” Called Live in Detroit, the new album is scheduled for release December 2 and will be accompanied by a DVD featuring exclusive performance footage. McClurkin walks the walk that he preaches. “I hope people will be able to say that I really had a true relationship with God,” he says. “Not only did I sing it, but my very life exemplified it…no façade or hypocrisy. When I was wrong, I was wrong, but I took blame rather than allow holiness to appear to be some fabricated way of life. I want that people will not have seen me, but rather seen that this is what a relationship with Jesus is like and I would hope it could be said that holiness was what I lived and what I passed on to the next generation, and the next.” Grammy-winning producer and recording artist Donald Lawrence is set for his sophomore Zomba/Verity Records solo CD project early in the first quarter of ‘09. Coming off of the success of producing the Clark Sisters’ best-selling comeback CD Live One Last Time and newcomer DeWayne Wood’s breakthrough hit “Let Go” on Lawrence’s own QuietWater Entertainment imprint, Lawrence, his co-producer Daniel Weatherspoon and a 10-member ensemble of session singers, The Co., will stand on the platform of Chicago’s The Living Word Christian Center and bring Lawrence’s latest musical vision to life. Inspired by the forthcoming book by The Living Word Christian Center’s Pastor Bill Winston, Lawrence explains the title of the new album, The Law of Confession. “A law is simply a principle, based on the predictable consequence of an act. Confession in the Greek language is homo-logeo, which means to say what has been said. There is a spiritual law for confession: you just say what God has already said.” In other words, “Speak the Word.” Among the songs on the project are the title song “Kingdom,” “Back-2-

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Eden,” “Words,” “Let The Word Do The Work,” “There Is A King In You,” “The Word Of The Lord” and “The Blessing Is On You.” “The CD is about applying the Word of the Lord to everyday life so that it may change your personal speech to speaking only positive things and things of good report,” says Lawrence. Also in tandem release are two CDs from participants on BET’s “American Idol-like reality show “Sunday Best.” At the beginning of the show, hosted by Kirk Franklin, BET announced its intention to find the “next Gospel Superstar.” The show prizes were a car, a record contract and big bank-$300,000. Crystal Aikin, a thirty-something-year old registered nurse, church girl from the Pacific Northwest beat out some of the country’s best church singers to become the 2008 BET “Sunday Best” winner. As the winner, she received a 2008 Toyota Camry and major recording contract with Verity Records and started working right away on her self-titled debut solo CD. The 10-song project was produced by a multitude of heavy weight producers from gospel and urban music, including PAJAM (J Moss, 21:03, Karen Clark Sheard), Dre & Vidal (Alicia Keys, Usher), Gerald Haddon (Deitrick Haddon, Damita Haddon, Bishop Noel Jones’ City of Refuge Sanctuary Choir), Derek Clark (Z’iel), Lamb & TJ and Asaph Ward (Kim Burrell, Maurette Brown Clark). That variety of music styles on her CD includes a mix of Urban Contemporary Gospel, Traditional Gospel and Contemporary Gospel-and a touch of Rock and Jazz. Although she says she loves every song, Crystal does admit to having three favorites on the project. “My first favorite is the powerful ballad “What If,” produced by PAJAM. When you listen to the words, it’s really an awesome song. What if God said no? What if he opted to not die? What if he opted to not give us healing? What if he opted not to give us miracles? Do you know what kind of world and situation we’d be in? It’s a song that provokes thought and thankfulness for God’s presence in our lives.” Another is “The Cloud,” produced by Derek Clark. “It has a rock feel to it. And it’s an encouraging song for anyone who feels down, ashamed, unworthy and hopeless. The song talks about how the clouds have rolled away and your sins have been erased. So say goodbye to yesterday. Say good-bye to days of gray!” Then there’s “He’s So Worthy” by Asaph Ward. This is a ‘gospel joint!’ “It’s full of energy and spectacular rhythm,” says Crystal, “but what grips me about the song is that it has a praise and worship feel. The music is slamming! But what gets me more are the words, because He’s worthy of all the praise and all the glory. It provokes you, no matter what you might be feeling at that moment. You’re like ‘Umph! He’s so worthy!’” Other stand-outs on the project include the mid-tempo, Contemporary “Lord You Reign Forever.” Produced by Dre & Vidal, it’s a soothing song that reminds you that the Lord reigns high above your circumstance and he will always be there for you. Another Dre & Vidal produced Urban Contemporary, Jazz-tinged ballad, “Turn To Him,” is

a testimonial tune about a soul being lost and confused and finally turning to God through prayer to be saved. The “Sunday Best” runner-up so impressed the people at Zomba Gospel that they swooped her up too. The runnerup, Shari Addison, will be releasing her CD the same day as Crystal. Shari’s is also self-titled and some of the honest names in gospel music lend their writing and producing talents to the project including Percy Bady, Kevin Bond, Donald Lawrence and Daniel Weatherspoon. “Shari Addison is a name that the national and international community of believers will come to recognize and enjoy for years to come! The raw power of her voice, coupled with the weight of her testimony, will leave an indelible impression on all who are blessed to experience the depth of her anointing,” says Grammy Award winning producer Kevin Bond, who wrote the first single, “No Battle, No Blessing.” “I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to work on her first solo effort.” Shari blends traditional, contemporary, urban and inspirational gospel on a solid 10-track release. Addison speaks life to the listener on the heartening “It’s Your Time.” Produced by Bady, this track was written by Clarence Singleton. “Whateva” has an urban vibe and sparse instrumentation,” Shari explains, adding, “To me, it’s just such a funky song. Sometimes Christians need to hear something with a beat, but still with a Godly message.” Bady also provides “You Know My Heart.” “‘Please Make Me Better Lord’ is a standard that has new life breathed into it; a four-plus minute rollercoaster ride. The first single is “No Blessing, No Battle.” Other titles are “I Praise You,” and the ballad “He Does All Things Well,” which Shari co-wrote with Bady. “Sunday’s Best” was apparently a hit with Zomba and the TV audiences as well. The show garnered the highest ratings for a gospel show in its history with a voting audience of more than 1.5 million viewers. Jordan says in these times, “this music is especially comforting and unlike a movie that you will sit and watch once, we take our music with us and listen again and again.” It’s a way to be comforted by some High Powered Praise. Let the church say “Amen.”

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