True Worshippers
Donald Lawrence is one of the most influential figures in modern gospel music Tags: donald lawrence true worshipper word life production new quality entertainment

Grammy-winning producer, composer and recording artist Donald Lawrence is one of the most influential figures in modern gospel music. After a stint as music director for soul legend Stephanie Mills, Lawrence made a splash in the gospel world by reshaping the regional Tri-City Singers in the 1990s and transforming them into an internationally acclaimed choir. As a producer, Lawrence has collaborated with artists as diverse as Mary J. Blige and jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis, Hezekiah Walker and the legendary Clark Sisters.

Donald accepted and was instrumental in signing the Tri-City Singers to their first major-label recording contract which yielded the 1993 hit album, A Songwriter's Point Of View. Nominated for several NAACP Image Awards, that debut was followed two years later with Tri-City's No. 1 breakthrough album and stage production, the Grammy-nominated Bible Stores. 1997 saw the Tri-City Singers offer their growing fans a warm holiday greeting with the top-10 hit, Hello Christmas, followed by the year 2000's quarter-of-a-million-selling with its electrifying crossover dance-chart, "Testify."

Donald and Tri-City followed it up with the release of Go Get Your Life Back in 2002, which became one of the year's best-selling releases. In addition to kickin' jams familiar to all Tri-City fans, Donald carefully crafted a shining veneer of gentle acoustic and orchestral sounds that movingly portrayed his and choir's deep commitment to the new material, produced and almost all of it-as on every Tri-City project-written or co-written by Donald.

Together some of their other releases include Bible Stories (2003), A Songwriter's Point of View (2005), Finale Act I (2006), and Finale Act II (2006).

After a very successful Finale CD/DVD release and farewell concert tour with the Tri-City Singers, Lawrence retired from the group in 2007 to focus on personal and solo pursuits.

Own his own Donald released I Speak Life (2004) and more recently, The Law of Confession Part 1 (2009) Enhanced.

Inspired by the forthcoming book “The Law of Confession” by Bill Winston ( Lawrence ’s pastor at Chicago ’s Living Word Christian Center ), Lawrence has crafted an epic recording that revolves around a simple Biblical tenet. “A law is simply a principle, based on the predictable consequence of an act,” Lawrence says. “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...`Speak The Word.’”

Lawrence and his ten-plus member backing ensemble, The Co. (which backed him on his Grammy-nominated 2004 I Speak Life solo CD debut), create a warmly engaging atmosphere on this stellar project. “I picked lead singers based on the feel and color of the song,” he opines. “Since I've worked with so many singers and I believe some of the best singers on this planet - I'm extremely picky when it comes to lead vocals. They must have a lot of heart!”

On The Law of Confession Part 1, the set opens with the jubilant, up-tempo tune "The Word of the Lord".   It feels like Sunday morning aerobics, ready to bring every listener to his or her feet.

"Back 2 Eden " is an upbeat, funky anthem with retro soul horn lines exudes a bounce that will make the numbest of feet spring into dance. The Co. does a vibrant call and response with the listener as Floyd Wilkinson (one of the Windy City ’s finest tenors) adlibs on the tail end of the track. “The message of this one is clear,” Lawrence offers. “This is pushing people to get back to our original design. God deemed for us a life of family, good health, wealth, spirituality and love. . I’m reminding us of this principle and saying what are you waiting for? Let's get back to our original purposes.”

"Citizens of the Kingdom" draws on the vibes of Donald's  childhood musical heroes Walter Hawkins and Andrae Crouch & the Disciples, Lawrence delivers this churchy, old school traditional-styled number. “This reminds everyone of the benefits of being a child of God and being a part of his kingdom,” Lawrence explains. “God created us to replenish the earth with light after Satan had plagued it with darkness.”

“There’s a King in You’ is my favorite song on the project,” Lawrence confesses of the rousing track. “Pastor Winston gave a sermon on this topic. It was an amazing experience for me. Life has caused us not to dream as we once did and our speaking has changed. Why is the lender speaking like the borrower? Why is the head speaking as if it's the tail? We come from royalty and there is a King inside of us all. Embrace your inner King.”


Charles Jenkins-Gospel Legend Tags: charles jenkins true worshipper gospel music word life production new quality entertainment

Faith Leader, Social Engineer, Entrepreneur, Idea Maker, Communicator, and Friend are just some of the words that describe Charles Jenkins who is a leader widely respected and revered for his generous heart, innovative thinking, contemporary leadership, diverse influence, business savvy and holistic approach to social change and large-scale community development. Jenkins lives a lifestyle of giving.

For 15 years Jenkins has been widely known as the Senior Pastor of the historic Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church of Chicago, a rapidly growing multi-location congregation founded by civil rights pioneer Reverend Clay Evans. Under Jenkins’ leadership at Fellowship, each year thousands of individuals in need are fed, clothed and impacted through various outreach efforts.

Jenkins is also Founding President of Fellowship Educational and Economic Development Corporation (FEED), a 501c3 that focuses on education, community development, job creation, public safety, and urban renewal in Chicago inner-city neighborhoods. FEED is currently leading a multi-million dollar expansion effort known as The Legacy Project estimated to education 1500 inner city students, and produce 400 new jobs creating a socioeconomic oasis to enhance Chicago’s Southside. Jenkins is also the founder of Gladiators, a mentoring program that focuses on teaching young African-American men how to fight to win in life. Additionally among many efforts to curb Chicago’s violence, Jenkins convened street gang founders to broker strategies for intervention and peace.

Jenkins’ service to others spans beyond his local context to global efforts. He has traveled internationally serving the poor alongside leaders of Charity Water, who build clean water wells around the world, World Vision who feed and educate millions globally, and Compassion International an organization that transforms the lives of poor children. In 2010, along with award winning artist Donald Lawrence, Charles convened recording artists such as Common, Lalah Hathaway, Marvin Sapp and others along with national leaders for a benefit known as Chicago’s Hope for Haiti which raised over $150,000 for victims of the devastation.

Jenkins is also a multi award-winning songwriter, 5 time Stellar award-winning recording artist, music producer, author and connector. Jenkins is the founding CEO of Inspired People LLC, a music company conglomerate committed to globally inspiring people through music, fashion, resources, and enriching events. In 2012, under his indie label, Jenkins spun the company’s first project “The Best of Both Worlds,” which debuted the #1 Christian Album in America on iTunes and Amazon, while also debuting as the #1 gospel album on Billboard remaining for 3 weeks. Additionally, from this highly acclaimed album came the global mega hit “Awesome” penned by Jenkins which remained #1 on the Billboard Gospel Song charts for over 5 amazing months becoming an international anthem being translated into multiple languages around the world. In 2015 Jenkins produced and released his sophomore album “Any Given Sunday” which was his second consecutive album to debut at #1 on the Billboard gospel album chart spawning his latest Billboard chart topping hit “WAR”.

Jenkins’ leadership further extends to the public sector where he serves on a number of community, corporate, educational and governmental boards. Jenkins has served on The Board of Trustees for The City Colleges of Chicago, The Advisory Board of The Illinois Attorney General, The Advisory of Chicago’s iHeart Media, and The Advisory Board of The Illinois State Treasurer. Jenkins also served for served for 3 years as an Illinois State Commissioner for The Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission and as a member of The Presidential Steering Committee for President Barack Obama. Furthermore as a sought after voice Jenkins has been a featured speaker on widely respected stages including the International Business Dinner during 2011’s National Prayer Breakfast Week at The White House, The Inauguration of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and The Inaugural Prayer Service of President Barack Obama in 2013.

Graduating with a Bachelors of Science in Christian Education from Moody Bible Institute and a Masters of the Arts in Urban Ministry from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Jenkins has also received countless awards and citations for his service including being inducted into the Martin Luther King, Jr. Board of Preachers and Scholars at Morehouse College, being selected as one of Black Enterprise Magazine’s Urban Business Game Changers under 40, a GRAMMY® Certificate, BMI Song of The Year Award, and many more. Jenkins is also a recipient of Illinois’ Gift of Hope’s highest honor, The Lifesaving Partner Award for leading thousands of African Americans to become organ donors in Illinois saving countless lives. A man of balance, Jenkins is married to Dr. Tara Rawls Jenkins and has 3 beautiful children Princess, Paris, and Charles III. Jenkins loves Jesus, loves his family, loves serving and helping others and enjoys a good cup of coffee. Charles Jenkins lives by his own personal mantra “Don’t Box Me In!”

Source: Official Website

Gospel Legends - The Canton Spirituals Tags: gospel legends canton spirituals word life production new quality entertainment featured blog

For many listeners, the word "gospel" conjures the sound of large African-American Southern choirs singing  joyous songs of celebration.  These  choirs began singing  traditional spirituals and  later evolved  into close knit, small groups that were the blueprint for doo-wop groups (All Media Guide).  However,  the Canton Spirituals have become more than a doo-wop group.  The Canton Spirituals are often described  an accomplished gospel quartet  that has paved the way for many gospel groups and singers.  Founded in  Canton, Mississippi,  the original group included the songwriter and singer, Harvey Watkins, Sr., who began to sing in the group at the age of fourteen, and the other original members: Eddie Jackson, Theo Thompson, and  Roscoe Lucious  (Mississippi Almanac 1997-1998).The Canton Spirituals has remained  the number one  gospel music quartet in the country.  They represent the best of the past and present in gospel music (i music).

The current lead singer, Harvey Watkins, Jr. has been singing and performing with the group since he was a young child.  Watkins attributes his interest in  music to his parents.  Watkins's  father and mother are still  the most important persons in his life.  Since The Canton Spirituals'  founding, they have been through heartaches and pains and many people have left the group.   Presently,  The Canton Spirituals members (Wallace Strickland, Victor Allen, Ralph Loften, Michael Richardson, Merlin Lucious, Cornelius Dwayne Watkins, and  Rufus Mapp)  are under the direction of Harvey Watkins, Jr.,  since the passing of his father, Harvey Watkins, Sr.,who died of cancer in Jackson, Mississippi, on November 16, 1994.  Harvey Watkins, Sr., until his death,  was the only original member with the Canton Spirituals  (Mississippi Almanac 1997-1998).  In the city of Canton, Watkins's  song- writing skills, music and legacy will remain an important part of not just the city of Canton's history, but America's history also.

In July 1994, Watkins received a Legend Award at the Mississippi Gospel Music Awards.  During the same month, Second  Street in Canton, Mississippi,  was renamed Harvey Watkins, Sr., Street  in his honor (Mississippi Almanac 1997-1998).  The Canton Spirituals have always kept  God as the cornerstone of their life and music.  Their music, according to one source, reflects the "heart"and "soul" of this rich genre and is perhaps the primary reason why they have such a loyal following (i music).  The Canton Spirituals have received numerous awards due to their dynamic and melancholic music.

In Harvey Watkins' hometown of  Canton, Mississippi, The Canton Spirituals received a Concurrent Resolution 557 in February from the Mississippi  Legislature during their 1998 Regular Session honoring them for receiving two Stellar Awards at the 1997 Stellar Gospel Music Awards and for being the only gospel quartet in America and the only Mississippi gospel artist to achieve such honors (Blackmon).  The Canton Spirituals have also received the 1998 Excellence Award for Quartet of the Year-Traditional and LP of the Year- Traditional (Mississippi Almanac 1997-1998).  The Canton Spirituals have also won Group/Duo of the Year and Traditional group/duo at the thirteenth annual Stellar Awards (gospelcity).  Their album, Live in Memphis I, received a Grammy nomination.  They appeared at the awards show in April 1994.  Live in Memphis I was also the longest running album on Billboard's Gospel Music Chart as of November, 1994 (Mississippi Almanac 1997-1998).

They are currently a part of the Gloryland's Gospel Music Top 15 Quartet Albums - 1st half of December, 1998 (geocities).   Other awards and accomplishments include numerous Stellar, GMWA, Excellence, Dove, Soul Train, Urban Network Awards, and several Grammy Award nominations (i music).  The Canton Spirituals put their heart and soul into their music.  Listeners can only wonder if this is what contributes to their rising success.  The Canton Spirituals have become loved and admired not only because of their ability to sell their music, but also to sing gospel effectively, change lives and people's views on life, and, most importantly,  spread the story of Jesus and the things he does for them and what he can do everyone else.

Source: Mississippi Canton Spirituals

             By Clarissa L. Nolen (SHS)

Gospel Legends-Be Be and Ce Ce Winans Tags: legends be be ce ce winans gospel music word life production new quality entertainment

For more than a decade, BeBe and CeCe Winans have been among the most commercially successful contemporary gospel acts in the United States. A hallmark of their sound is their "light" version of gospel, a soothing sound enriched by modern jazz, R&B, and pop elements. Criticized by gospel traditionalists for weakening the sacred music's message by adapting instrumentation and arrangements of contemporary pop and soul music, BeBe and CeCe Winans successfully aimed at reaching the broader and younger audience that traditional gospel had largely lost. Their lyrics, which are not as heavily loaded with Christian symbolism as traditional gospel, extended the appeal of their musical message of love and respect to a broad secular audience.

BeBe and CeCe Winans' unique style won over a huge number of listeners and sent two of their albums platinum. Their album from 1988, Heaven, was with Aretha Franklin's 1972 Amazing Grace, only the second gospel record ever to go gold. Since then, BeBe and CeCe Winans have earned many more top ten hits on Billboard's R&B charts and won numerous Grammy, Stellar, and Dove Awards.

BeBe and CeCe were born into a family of gospel singers that in the 1980s and 1990s produced no fewer than four celebrated gospel acts: The Winans, Daniel Winans & the Second Half, and, of course, BeBe and CeCe. BeBe and CeCe gave their two youngest sisters, Angie and Debbie, their start singing back-up, and the two girls went on to form a duo of their own called Sisters.

BeBe and CeCe Winans' parents met in a church choir, the Lemon Gospel Chorus, in 1950 and formed their own choir after their marriage in 1953. BeBe Winans was the youngest of the seven Winans sons; CeCe was the first of their three daughters. To keep their kids off the streets of Detroit, the Winans made it a point to take them to their Pentecostal church regularly. As in many churches, singing together was a large part of the worship experience, and like so many other singers, BeBe and CeCe Winans got their start in their local church choir.

All ten of the Winans brothers and sisters were good singers and their impact on the church choir, according to BeBe, was great. "We were the chorus," he told Washington Postwriter Richard Harrington. "We directed the choir, my brother played organ and taught the songs. We were the strong tenors, the strong altos, the strong sopranos." Father David Winans did not only sing in the choir, he was also a member of a four-man singing group, the Noble Aires. He knew discipline was important if one wanted to succeed as a singer. "My father was pretty strict on the guys growing up, but they loved it," CeCe Winans told Harrington. "He drilled them so they would be perfectionists in what they did," she recalled, "but [singing] was never something they pushed on us." The four eldest Winans brothers David, Ronald, Carvin, and Marvin formed the gospel quartet the Testimonials in the early 1970s. They later changed their name to The Winans, went off to California to record their first album in 1980 and subsequently won multiple Grammy Awards.

Even as teenagers, the only music BeBe and CeCe were allowed to listen to at home was gospel music. However, growing up in Detroit in the late 1970s, it was nearly impossible for them not to be influenced by musicians from outside the gospel realm like the Temptations, the Supremes, Aretha Franklin, and Stevie Wonder. In the late 1970s, BeBe and CeCe, together with their older brothers Michael and Daniel, formed their own group, the Winans, Part 2 and started performing at church and family events.

While BeBe was sure that he wanted to sing for a living, CeCe didn't go for a career as a singer at first, opting instead to study cosmetology. However, in 1981, Howard McCrary, musical director of the religious TV program The PTL Club and a friend of the Winans, invited BeBe and CeCe to sing in the show. Together with six other singers, they became the PTL Singers in 1982 and performed to a mainly white audience for the first time. Occasionally BeBe and CeCe sang duets on the show, including "Lord, Lift Us Up," a cover version of Joe Cocker's and Jennifer Warnes' hit, "Up Where We Belong," from the soundtrack of An Officer and a Gentleman. PTL also became their first record label. The album Lord, Lift Us Up was released by PTL in 1984. The duo's cover version of "Up Where We Belong" became a hit on mainstream radio and the duo caught the attention of several record labels.

From there they went on to sing as the gospel duo BeBe and CeCe Winans. Thanks to BeBe's big, deep voice that managed to be tender and powerful at the same time and CeCe's rich alto, they were in demand from a variety of churches. Chris Willman of the Los Angeles Times described the duo's singing style as belonging to the "Megalo-Melismatic school .... swooping and dipping all over a single, poor defenseless syllable." However, in early 1984, 18-year-old CeCe Winans left PTL and moved from Charlotte, North Carolina, back to Detroit. She got married in June to Alvin Love, a sales account executive, and opened her own beauty salon. BeBe ventured into commercial jingles.

In 1985, gospel label Sparrow Records took BeBe and CeCe under its wing. They were the first black artists on Sparrow's roster and produced a single of BeBe's song "I.O.U. Me." Delighted by the high quality of their recorded work, Sparrow president Bill Hearn asked Capitol Records if they were interested in BeBe and CeCe's music. They were, and the gospel duo signed a second contract with the major label. Supported by two record labels, BeBe and CeCe Winans entered into the most dynamic phase of their career, one which would take them to the top of contemporary gospel and R&B.

After the duo signed with Capitol Records, their debut album BeBe & CeCe Winans was released in 1987 on the Sparrow/Capitol label. Producer Keith Thomas collaborated with the duo on the full vocal arrangements which were then sung by other Winans family members, including brother Marvin. Besides winning a Grammy, the album made it into Billboard's top ten spiritual albums--the category where black gospel artists are listed--and the magazine's top 20 inspirational albums--which usually represent white gospel. BeBe Winans, who co-wrote most of the catchy melodies, explained to Washington Post writer Richard Harrington that it has become their mission to demolish these divisions, because he couldn't "see the color of music."

CeCe was honored with her first Grammy Award for Best Soul Gospel Performance for a Female. The songs "I.O.U. Me," "For Always," and "Love Said Not So," went on to become hits from the album. Not only were BeBe and CeCe popular among gospel fans--they were also popular in the so-called secular market. In addition, BeBe starred in the Broadway musical Don't Get God Started in 1987. Discussing this experience, BeBe Winans told Billboard's Bob Darden, "I'd get so involved with a song that I'd go on too long. The crowd would love it, but when I'd come backstage, I had driven the producers crazy!"

The tour for their first album included mainly neutral concert halls--rather than traditional gospel venues--where BeBe and CeCe could freely perform their music. Their lyrics were often ambiguous and lacked the strong Christian messages that most pastors required for their churches. The duo also toured with Sandi Patti and with The Winans. On a trip to Poland and Russia, their religious music even received a positive review in a communist newspaper.

The duo's second album Heaven was released in 1988. Peter B. King wrote in the Seattle Times that its sound was "best described as synth-funk gospel," dominated by "synthesizers, sequencers and drum machines." For the tune "Celebrate New Life," BeBe and CeCe Winans teamed up with their friend Whitney Houston. Another song on the album, "You," was co-written by three members of the jazz gospel quartet Take 6 who also sang backup vocals. Heaven included new versions of Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and Kool & the Gang's "Celebration." Heaven cemented BeBe and CeCe as gospel stars of the first order. It was the first Gospel album ever to reach the top ten on Billboard's R&B charts and only the second to be certified gold.

BeBe and CeCe's next album, Different Lifestyles, was another ambitious project that saw them pushing into other genres, characterized by the New York Times' Michael Eric Dyson as "a curriculum of musical diversity--from rap and uptempo rhythm-and-blues to a sample of a gospel shout." They also included a star-studded lineup of guest artists, including Luther Vandross, M.C. Hammer, and Mavis Staples of the Staple Singers. "Sometimes we were concerned that people may think we can't do a full album without any special guests," CeCe told Billboard's David Nathan. "But what do you do when someone like Luther calls?" BeBe and CeCe co-wrote ten of the record's eleven tracks. The first single from Different Lifestyles, "Addictive Love," was an immediate hit among radio programmers across the nation. The album eventually reached number one on the Billboard R&B charts.

Following the release of Different Lifestyles, BeBe and CeCe set off on a year of hectic touring which left them feeling exhausted. They took a year off from performing and recording. Their next album, released on Sparrow/Capitol in 1993, was their first Christmas album, appropriately entitled First Christmas. "It was fun taking songs and making them into BeBe and CeCe songs without really trying to change them because they were already great," CeCe told Lisa Collins of Billboard.

They followed up the Christmas record with 1994's Relationships. It was an album that almost didn't appear on Capitol. BeBe and CeCe had been growing increasingly dissatisfied with their record company, which they felt was not giving them the support they deserved. The bad feelings were turned to good, however, when Gary Gersh took over as Capitol Records' president and CEO in mid 1993. "We were involved in every aspect of Relationships, which included being at several marketing and other label meetings," BeBe told J.R. Reynolds of Billboard. BeBe and CeCe once again felt that they were part of Capitol's future. Nonetheless, the record was the last one the duo recorded together.

In 1996, BeBe released his first solo album, BeBe Winans, to mixed reviews on Atlantic Records. The album's first track "In Harm's Way" was, according to Jet, inspired by Ronald Winans' heart attack which had almost killed BeBe's brother. In 2000, BeBe signed with Motown and released his second solo album Love & Freedom. The album was nominated for a Dove Award in 2001.

CeCe Winans' solo career took off right from the start. Her husband Alvin quit his position at Xerox and became her business manager. CeCe's first solo release, Alone in His Presence, went gold in 1995 and was awarded a Grammy as the year's best contemporary soul gospel album. In 1996, CeCe was the first black female to win the Dove Award for female vocalist of the year. She hosted her own television show, CeCe's Place, on the interfaith cable channel Odyssey Network, and authored her autobiography, On a Positive Note: Her Joyous Faith, Her Life, and Her Everyday Blessings.She also founded her own company, CW Wellspring Entertainment, including record label Wellspring Gospel. By 2001, CeCe had recorded four solo records and had won a total of eight Grammy Awards. The first release on her own label, 1999's Alabaster Box, was certified gold and nominated for a Grammy.

Source: Planet Shakers

Kurt Carr & The Kurt Carr Singers Tags: kurt carr kurt carr singers true worshippers word life production new qulaity entertainment featured

Just the Beginning Gospel music has its fair share of mainstays and superstars, but only a fraction has been gifted with the higher calling of leading the saints in song. Even fewer have been commissioned with the task of breaking through denominational and ethnic backgrounds, while still maintaining an in-demand career that includes performing, composing, arranging, and producing for the biggest acts in the genre and beyond. Kurt Carr is one such minister.

JUST THE BEGINNING, his latest release on his newly minted Kurt Carr Gospel imprint in association with Zomba Gospel, is a testament to this industrious spirit. The album is a capstone that is bound to extend the reach of Carr’s growing legacy in contemporary gospel—a celebrated repertoire that, in less than a decade’s time, has left an indelible imprint in the sacred-music canon. “God has called me to preserve the music of the church,” Carr says, matter-of-factly. “There are people, there are ministers, who are called to go into the world and evangelize it. I feel that I am called to perpetuate the music of the church so that there’s substance to feed seasoned saints, and new converts once we catch them. That summarizes my calling.”

In light of Carr’s already extensive résumé in gospel music, JUST THE BEGINNING may sound like a non sequitur, but the artist truly believes he’s turning a page. “I feel it’s the beginning of many new horizons,” says the psalmist, who recently moved his quarters to Houston, Texas, after a 20-year tenure in Los Angeles. “God wants us to know that there’s so much more in store for us. People have seen great things, but they haven’t seen the greatest yet.” For those keeping tabs on Carr, it’s been almost four years since he turned heads with his chart-topping One Church project, but this time around the multiple Stellar recipient says he’s not looking to replicate the genre-bending eclecticism of that recording. In many ways, JUST THE BEGINNING is about him stripping things down and going back to the basics.

“The last album was a thematic album; it was a stretch. We had bagpipes, accordion—sounds that have never been associated with gospel music,” Carr says. “These songs are very singer-friendly, very congregational. This time, I’m going back to my roots—church music.” (more) Kurt Carr/Just The Beginning/2 That’s good news for the church. A protégé of not one, but two gospel legends—he was mentored by both Richard Smallwood and James Cleveland—Carr has carved a niche of his own in Sunday-morning liturgies, blessing worshippers with his unmistakable knack for choir-friendly melodies and a cross-cultural appeal second to none. For proof, one needs not look further than Carr’s signature song, “In the Sanctuary”—also the centerpiece of his breakthrough, gold-selling recording Awesome Wonder—to realize his keen ear for the corporate.

To this day, millions continue to sing the song across the globe every week, in no less than nine different languages. “After the success of that song, I knew that God had called my music ministry to reach people of all races and all people who have an open ear for God’s message,” says Carr. Through the years, this calling to reach anyone with ears to hear has led Carr to write an armload of instant classics and standards for the modern church, including the bona fide hits “I Almost Let Go;” “For Every Mountain;” “Kumbaya;” “God Great God;” and “God Blocked It,” as well as “The Presence of the Lord,” the song that put Byron Cage on the map. Kurt Carr has ministered in over 20 countries and was recently named honorary principal of a Gospel music school in Japan that boasts a “Kurt Carr” class of gospel music production!

A renaissance man in every sense of the term, Carr has used the last few years to continue to write and produce for various heavy-hitters, develop his own music label, nurture new artists, and perform all over the world with his inimitable Kurt Carr Singers—Yvette Williams, Michelle Prather, Troy Bright, Timiney Figueroa-Caton, Nikita Clegg-Foxx, Nikki Potts, and Vonnie Lopez.

In between travels, listeners and congregants alike have continued to reap the benefits of Carr’s prolificacy, as recent songs and albums by the renowned Tramaine Hawkins (her highly applauded ‘comeback’ CD “I Never Lost My Praise”) and Bishop Paul S. Morton (his seminal “I’m Still Standing”), with whom Carr teamed up in the aftermath of Katrina, have made waves in airplay charts and houses of worship throughout the nation. In fact, Morton says all the time that Kurt Carr “is a genius and has found a way to tailor make songs that completely express my heart;” and Hawkins has said the single “I Never Lost My Praise” was a song that she’d been waiting on for over 20 years- while critics compared it to her legendary classics “Changed” and “Going Up Yonder.” JUST THE BEGINNING is all set to further this tradition.

Right out of the gate, the CD gives listeners a trip down memory lane as a high-powered medley of Carr’s greatest hits reminds us of the scope and breadth of his heritage in gospel music. Deftly sequenced and rearranged, this retrospective montage is simply a primer for what’s to come: one of the most tautly conceived gospel recordings of 2008. In grand Carr fashion, the first single “Peace and Favor Rest On Us” stands tall as one of the most energetic calls to worship in the artist’s songbook, a lively corporate number that, once again, asserts Carr as one of the most culturally relevant worshippers of this generation. One of Carr’s favorite moments on the CD is 89-year-old Narcissus Hinton-Brown – a traditional soloist from Carr’s hometown in Hartford, Connecticut and one of his mentors – singing “This Little Light Of My Mine” as a prequel to the affirming “Don’t Let Your Light Go Out.”

“I have friends from all walks of life,” says Carr, “and my whole purpose is to be a light to them…that’s how I live my life and that’s what I am encouraging and reminding others on this song.” (more) Kurt Carr/Just The Beginning/3 Nikita Clegg-Fox leads on the soaring “Spiritual Makeover Extreme,” an ultra-contemporary uptempo track with a “never ending hook” proclaiming “I’m so glad I don’t look like what I’ve been through;” while the lively “Right Time, Right Place” delivers a foot-stomping frenzy like only Kurt Carr & The Kurt Carr singers can. For those who have relied on Carr to offer songs of encouragement, Just the Beginning is brimming with a thoughtful parade of ballads, like the faith-filled “I Believe God;” the reflective “Sanctuary (God Is a Healer),” which Carr says is a song for this hour; and the empowering title track, a tender motivational piece where the singers proclaim “you haven’t seen your best days yet” and push believers to name and claim with authority the totality of God’s unfailing promises.

By the time the song reaches its praise-filled climax, it’s evident “Just the Beginning” is more than just a song - it’s a prophetic word that Christ followers are called to make their own. All of these set the stage for “My Shepard (Psalm 23)” featuring the dynamic vocals of top-selling Christian group Avalon. The track is one of Carr’s favorite songs on JUST THE BEGINNING and undoubtedly a composition that will permeate Christian circles. The song almost didn’t make the album, but, at the 11th hour, it made the cut after Carr played it for his vocal ensemble and they immediately loved it. As JUST THE BEGINNING unfolds and moments like the majestic, worship inspired “I Exist to Give You Praise;” the worshipful “Great Jesus (God Has Done Great Things);” the powerful Ten Thousand One Million led by Vonnie Lopez; and the swaying, Nikki Potts-led “I Am the One” join the processional of hits-in-the-making, the 2-disc project is already an absolute triumph—yet another milestone from the pen and the heart of this consummate champion of church music. Carr, who has a love and passion for preserving the gospel sounds of African-American heritage, could not complete the CD without delivering gems such as “I Am The One” and “Blessed Be The Rock” that, in Kurt’s own words, are “Sunday morning, choir robe, march down the aisle, sit down if you can songs!”

While each track demonstrates Carr’s penchant for sophisticated, neo-classical arrangements and the Spirit’s unbridled touch, JUST THE BEGINNING still marks the start of an exciting phase in Carr’s storied trajectory. Among various other ventures, the gospel heavyweight is in the planning stages of developing new projects from established and up-and-coming talent through his new imprint, as well as mapping out future recordings for soul divas Gladys Knight and Natalie Cole. But regardless if Carr is guiding the careers of others or carrying saints in the wings of praise, the minstrel is quick to not attribute his gifting to anything but God’s incomparable anointing. “Most times when I sit down to write I go, ‘Oh, God, I don’t have any songs. I can’t hear anything,’” Carr confesses. “And then as I pray and seek God, He gives me ideas. I definitely know that it’s a gift from Him. I’m so appreciative that He’s chosen me to share it with the world.”

Source: RCA

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