Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Shauna Niequist - Bread and Wine [Book Review]

One word, four letters, sometimes overrated mostly underrated. And for her third book, Author Shauna Niequist decides to dive totally into this topic, head on. No shame. Bread and Wine is about food and what it’s really meant to do. It’s about how food isn’t just to nourish our bodies but also to nourish our souls. And it’s classic Shauna’s style with her real life stories and lesson learnt or a dawning or an epiphany.

I am a hard-core Shauna fan and I have followed her blog since ‘Cold Tangerines’ to ‘BitterSweet’ and even the in between of ‘Bread and Wine’ but I choose not to write this review as a bimbo raving fan. Did bread and wine do it for me? I’m not quite sure. Though first of all, I must give an ‘atta girl’ to Shauna for offering her real- life everyday experience to people to learn from. That is bold and at the same time daring. It’s prone to leave the artist tender and wondering ‘what would the people make of this?’ I mean its real-life not the framed up Hollywood ‘reality’ shows we are used to. Real life. That said, Bread and Wine for me felt mostly like pieces of ingredients from her former books mixed together with ‘Recipes’ and baked into 'Bread and Wine'. And another issue I had with this book was how it ironically went against it central message of bringing people together to ‘the table’. It’s heavily culturally inclined. Dear Shauna, not only Americans read you; you've got a BIG platform. I have nothing against Shauna enjoying wine, beer, tonic and various alcoholic drinks, but I kept wondering for the teetotaler who wanted to join Shauna’s table. I write this with honest sincerity so that this great writer of mine can turn out better books in the future.

With Shauna, each chapter is a book on its own so it's hard to review a book of books. It's hard to tell you how one fell short and was full of gibberish while another was beautiful and full of wisdom. It's hard to tell you how one made me almost wipe a tear and how another almost made me throw the book across the room. Is Shauna worth reading? Yes! Absolutely yes! She has a fresh perspective to faith and how it soaks into everyday life. But for new readers and boys and men please start from Cold Tangerines before you pick up this one. It would add more color and perspective to the picture and help you appreciate Shauna's journey better.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Hezekiah Walker - Azusa the Next Generation [Music Review]

Artist: Hezekiah Walker
Album: Azusa The Next Generation
Label: RCA Inspiration 
Street Date: June 11, 2013
iPod Pick: No Greater Love
There is a BOLD claim I always love to make among my ‘musical’ friends, which is: LFC (Love Fellowship Choir) which happens to be Hezekiah Walker‘s choir is one of the best choirs ever. In fact most times I tend to rate them above other great choirs I love including the Soweto Gospel Choir, Kirk Franklin‘s Crew, St. Paul’s Cathedral Choir (The choir Anthony Way uses), Choir of King’s College at Cambridge, Swedish Radio Choir, and Westminster Abbey Choir (Yeah, too much British choirs, I know, but Britain [or say Europe]‘s got great choirs).
I think I’m always bold to make this bold claim cause the music of Hezekiah Walker has that organic feel of reminding us where we all came from, not just the black race but also the human race. It’s rich, deep like a never-ending well and of high quality like the diamond pendant your granny gave you and you would never want to throw away. It’s music to decipher and let serenade you. You just have to listen. And even as you listen to the music that emanate from Hezekiah’s choir, you would just hear not only the sound, you would hear the conviction, yes the convictions in each of the voices, in the voice of the thirty something single mom who’s had so much to cry about lifting her voice alongside the devotion of the twenty something young lad who heart cry is to live pure and bold in his generation. And isn’t that what we love about choirs? Voices of different texture, timbre and history rising to into one beautiful harmony telling the same story. And that’s beautiful if a choir succeeds in doing that well. Hezekiah Walker always does that well.
On ‘Azusa The Next Generation’, we have the anthemic, powered-up faith chant titled ‘Every Praise’ which is bound to pierce every dark cloud and the choir is at their tightest on this one. We also have Deitrick Haddon doing ‘Break Every Chain’ (which was formerly covered early in the year by Tasha Cobbs on her album ‘Grace’ but I must honestly say I prefer D Haddy’s version not just he can SANG but cause it has more room for response which also makes it ready for easy listen and local church choir renditions). Donnie McClurkin also appears on the soulful, worshipful ‘Breakthrough’, it’s a must listen. Before I close these appetizer givings, Brian Courtney Wilsonappears on the chill-back, windows-down ‘Grace’. Beautiful tune that would make you move on the inside.
So much on the new Hezekiah Walker’s ‘Azusa The Next Generation’ and I must say it doesn’t fail to deliver or kick off on the awesomeness of ‘Souled Out’ (Hezekiah’s last album.) Yes it’s been 5 years and we haven’t grown tired of that one. We won’t be getting tired of this one in a long while too. It’s that good.

[Review Originally Penned  For and Featured Courtesy of TheGospelGuru.com]

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Isaac Carree - Reset [Music Review]

Artist: Isaac Carree
Album: Reset
Label: Door 6 Entertainment 
Street Date: June 25, 2013
iPod Pick: Famous
From the bouncy ‘In the Middle’ to the soulful, laid back in tune ‘Uncommon Me’, Isaac Carree has brought in a kind of RnB in gospel we have come to love. Using his last project before this one as a springboard, it’s not like Carree brings something totally new to the table as various artist might come to mind when listening but the thing is how music is a part of this artist. He brings a presence to it that’s just uniquely his. And that is a very good thing. Isaac Carree carved a niche for himself and called us all in even with his debut ‘Uncommon Me’. That said, what about ‘Reset’.
On ‘Reset’ I hear many things. For me ‘Reset’ sounds more like a debut for Mr Carree as he totally leaves that niche he made for himself on his real debut. The thing about leaving niches is that just like a mother bird, you might lose some fans you already have in your nest.
Enter in ‘Clean This House’ the first single from the album which is already all over radio. This track is so R Kelly (Who coincidentally features latter on the album on a remix version of the same song)! Apart from concerns on originality on this track, the song writing is also skewed and lacks some precision. The verse starts off with a personal story ending up with a preachy bridge and ‘generalized’ refrain. My quick question for the artist or songwriter: is this a personal story or the metaphor story type with an ideal character the writer hopes anyone should fit into? These issues make the song a bit un-relatable.
Viewing as a whole, ‘Reset’ as an album is bold (maybe not lyrically) but musically. It is fresh and unlike a lot of things out there even in the mainstream. It has moments that shines with creativity [for example the ‘raggedy’ sounding little band choir chanting ‘Jesus’ on the moving ‘Famous’ (You need to listen. it is beautiful and has the ability to move your soul)]. Though with the Venn diagrams drawn already by popular RnB males such as Jason DeruloTygaChris BrownJor’dan ArmstrongTrey Songz, Miguel and little big boy NeYo, it’s hard to not be able to categorize anything thing that comes out in the RnB sector with pop flair into these categories but it’s good to find on Carree’s ‘Reset’ that thankfully some tracks fall out of these circles (Knock KnockFamous, Never, Right Now.)
We hear a hint of what it used to be on ‘Right Now’ and its one song that would connect with you even from the opening lyrics and sound. Ever wondered what it would sound like whenKirk FranklinLecrae and Kiki Sheard appear on a song? You need to listen to the loud speaker bomb ‘So Glad’ and they do it well without overshadowing or too much shine.
Ever had that feeling when a piece of artwork is saying a million things when it’s best at just passing one across? That’s what ‘Reset’ felt like on first listen but I believe it would grow on me. It should grow on you too. But first you’ve got to press the reset button on the memory of Isaac Carree you always had (even way back with Destiny Child‘s Michelle Williams and the Men of Standard) cause it’s okay to call this one a brand new artist. Seriously, it’s okay.
P.S.- Whatever lyrics he was crooning on the song ‘Never’ girl stay strong! You might be whining your waist before the song ends. Honestly it matters. I just had to tell you. Lol

[Review Originally Penned  For and Featured Courtesy of TheGospelGuru.com]


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